Eating healthy at home is quite simple when you're in complete control of the dinner menu and the ingredients used in your food. However, healthy restaurant eating is a whole other story. Limited food options and deliciously enticing menu entrees might cause you to completely throw your diet plan out the window. For most people who are trying to lose weight, this means that dining out is completely out of the question. If your diet is preventing you from enjoying the pleasures of dining out, you're only giving yourself another reason to quit. Use these 10 tips to eat healthier when dining out to stay on track with your diet, while enjoying an evening out at your favorite restaurant.
1. Skip the Bread
Many restaurants offer complimentary bread before taking your order. The first step for avoiding excess calories and ruining your diet at a restaurant is to pass on the bread. Do whatever you can to avoid the temptation of reaching over the table for a fresh roll or baked biscuit. You can even tell the waiter not to bring you the bread basket, although the people you're dining with might be a little upset about missing on the complimentary breadsticks.
2. Get a Healthy Beverage
One of the biggest nutrition mistakes people make is drinking their calories in the form of alcohol, juice or sodas. Your healthiest option for a beverage when dining out is a glass of water. If this is a little too boring for you, opt for a slice of lemon in your water, or get sparkling water. If you must order something with a little flavor, stick to unsweetened iced tea or diet soda.
3. Avoid Appetizers
Unless you plan on having an appetizer as your main dish, you should definitely skip it. The fried calamari or artichoke and spinach dip all sound great before a meal, but you're just double-dipping on the calories. Healthy restaurant eating can be accomplished as long as you focus on the main meal at hand, and avoid the extra chances at eating one too many calories.
4. Opt for the Salad to Get Full
Many establishments offer a soup or salad option to go with your meal. If this is the case, you should always opt for the salad. All too often the soups available for choosing are loaded with sodium and excess calories, plus, they don't get you full. Select a salad with a light dressing to help you get a little fuller before your meal even arrives at the table.
Here are a few more salad tips:
- Ask for the dressing on the side.
- Instead of drenching your salad with dressing, dip your fork in the dressing before plunging it into your salad to avoid excess calories.
5. Choose Veggie Sides that are Non-starchy
Practically all restaurant entrées come with at least one side dish. This can be very damaging to your diet, especially since most side dishes come with the option for something starchy like fries or mashed potatoes. The good news is they also tend to come with a healthy vegetable option like steamed broccoli and carrots. Always opt for the veggies and try eating them all before you attack the main entrée so that you will get full on the healthy sides. By the way, coleslaw and deep fried vegetables do not count as healthy options.
6. Ask for Half the Entrée Only
An easy way to cut your calories in half when dining out is to ask the waiter to only serve half of your entrée and to put the other half in a takeout box. Most restaurants serve up heavy helpings to patrons. These massive servings are typically more than you would normally eat at home if you were cooking for yourself, especially while you're on a diet.
7. Order Lean Protein Dishes
Ordering a dish mainly made up of lean proteins like a salmon filet or a piece of grilled chicken breast are great options at a restaurant. They are healthy alternatives to most other menu items, and the protein will make you full very quickly.
8. Avoid Heavy, Complex Carb Dishes
A giant pasta plate or a heavy sandwich might sound healthy when they come with vegetables, but the complex carbs can be a disaster for your diet plan. If you're in the mood for a sandwich, try locating a lettuce wrap on the menu. As far as pasta goes, only order it if you have the option for whole wheat noodles.
9. Look for the Healthy Options Section
Most establishments have become well aware that people are trying to eat healthier and have included healthy entrée options on their menus. Some even have entire sections dedicated to the health conscientious. Plus, most of these sections come with nutritional information that includes the amount of calories and fat in each dish to help you keep track of your diet.
10. Have a Healthy Dessert
It's ok to indulge once in a while when you are on a diet. A healthy dessert is a great way to celebrate a week of dieting, and can be looked at as a nice reward to motivate you to exercise. Always look for healthy options on the menu like dishes made with dark chocolate, or light sorbets or frozen yogurt,which are healthier than regular ice cream.