Making healthy decisions while dining out can be difficult. There are so many options and it’s easy to be tempted. But if you are well prepared and know your options, you’ll be able to find healthy, nutritious entrees that won’t leave you feeling bloated and guilty. My favorite tip is the last one – always remember to indulge. Life is too short to not have dessert every once in a while!
Plan ahead. If you know you are planning on dining out with friends, make sure to look at the menu ahead of time. If it’s a restaurant I’ve never been to (or if it’s been a long time), I always check the menu online first, before I even set foot in the restaurant. There’s nothing worse than sitting down at a restaurant and seeing there are no healthy options for you. Also, by planning ahead you’ll be less likely to impulsively get the loaded potato skins or nachos. Look for entrees which feature vegetables and protein.
Avoid hunger. Don’t arrive to the restaurant hungry. This will make it harder to avoid cravings. Eat a snack or something light before leaving the house. While you’re seated and waiting for your meal to arrive, make sure to drink your water! Sometimes we can mistake hunger for thirst. Stay hydrated. If you do arrive hungry, order a house salad as your appetizer to feel satisfied while you wait.
Avoid the bread basket. Send it back that way you’re not tempted. Ask the server if they offer veggies with dip, or even crackers. Some restaurants, like The Office, offer both bread and vegetables while you wait for your meal.
Order first. If you’re with a group, make the first order so you aren’t tempted by everyone’s orders. It’s easy to change your mind once you’ve heard five other people ordering a quesadilla.
Be wary of salads. Just because it’s a salad doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy. Salads with toppings like bacon, breaded chicken, etc. will be higher in calories. For example, the Pecan Crusted Chicken Salad from T.G.I. Friday’s is over 1,000 calories!
Avoid creamy soups. Any soup that is creamy, like chowders, will be higher in fat and calories. Choose chicken soup, minestrone or vegetable soup instead.
Don’t be shy. Ask your waiter questions about what you plan to order and don’t be afraid to make requests or swaps. After all, you’re paying for this meal, why shouldn’t it be the way you want it? It’s easy to swap out certain items for others – just speak up!
Take your time eating. Eat slowly and focus on savoring each bite. Sometimes we eat too fast and end up still feeling hungry, which leads to overeating. It takes your brain about 20 minutes to “feel full,” which is why you should eat slowly. Halfway through the meal, ask yourself if you’re still hungry. Don’t feel pressured to clear off your plate.
Indulge. Being on a diet doesn’t have to mean deprivation. If you’re out with friends who are ordering dessert, feel free to indulge! Split a dessert with a friend or two, or order something that is fruit based.