Healthy dining optionsNorth Americans eat out a lot. How much is a lot? According to the Center for Science in the Public interest, the average American eats out four times per week – a whopping 208 times per year. This means that since the food is prepared by someone other than you, you probably don’t know exactly what ingredients you’re putting in your mouth. Lard, butter, salt or artificial ingredients take over the dish, making them loaded with calories and not so nutritious. For example, some fast food strawberry-flavored shakes don’t have a single gram of strawberry in them. Rather, the strawberry comes from a jar of pink crystals created in a lab somewhere. And, some restaurants give their french fries a sugar bath before they’re tossed into the deep fryer, adding more calories. Worse yet, many restaurants bathe veggies in a coating of butter and salt to improve flavoring. Do we really need to improve on something that tastes delicious already on its own? Although it’s a bit of a slippery slope when trying to eat healthy and eat out, I have some simple solutions to help you improve your dining out experience.
  1. Prepare yourself mentally. Check out the menu online and get an idea of your best options to choose from before heading to the restaurant. Make a plan to order clean foods (or as clean as possible) before you step foot in the restaurant. That means, avoiding the obviously fatty, sugary traps like greasy burgers, cheese, gravy and sugary foods and even cocktails.
  2. Eat a healthy snack before. Have a low calorie snack before going to the restaurant. A handful of almonds or grapes, a yogurt light on calories and sugar will help curb your cravings when temptation is staring you in the face (literally) when you’re browsing the menu.
  3. Limit the alcohol. A lot of cocktail, wine and beer options have a lot of empty calories and even sugar. If you’re choosing to have a drink, make it a spritzer or limit yourself to one glass of wine or beer.
  4. Cook it right. Order your protein grilled, steamed, poached or baked. These are the least fat-loaded preparation techniques.
  5. Skip the dressing. Most dressings are terribly fatty. Try your salad with olive, avocado or pumpkin oil. Mix it up with balsamic vinegar or lemon wedges.
  6. Load up on steamed vegetables. If your meal comes with a huge helping of mashed potatoes, fries or sauced-covered rice, ask if the chef can make a substitution of steamed vegetables instead.
  7. Eat slowly. Take your time chewing your food, and take sips of water in between bites. This will help your stomach adjust to the food being put in it. As you eat, you’ll notice a signal letting you know you’re full and satisfied.
  8. Watch your portions. Meal sizes are bigger than ever before. You can see right away if the food you ordered is going to be too much. Remember to pay close attention and stop immediately when you feel full.
  9. Try sushi or shashimi. These are normally light calorie options. Sushi-grade tuna is beautifully lean and delicious. The portions are usually just right too.
  10. Think positively. Know that even though you’re in a tempting spot, you’re making the right choices. Dining out can still be fun, even if you’re not allowing yourself to indulge. Keep your eye on your goal of eating healthy and order what’s going to help you get there. Your new self in a few months will thank you for making these choices.