Eating out at restaurants is something that many of us find ourselves doing, especially during those busy weeks or when we are trying to meet up with friends and family. Dining out can still be a part of a healthy diet, but it’s important to make decisions that will lead you on the right path to your goals. As many of us are already aware, restaurants add extra ingredients that we might be aware of and it can be tough to know exactly what is in the meals. Here are a few tips that I use when I eat out:
1. Drink Water at Restaurants
Making sure you are staying properly hydrated throughout the day is SO important. A good rule of thumb is to drink about 8 glasses of water a day. It can be more or less depending on your activity level. Staying properly hydrated can allow you to better be in tune with your hunger/fullness signals, which can be especially important if you’re eating out. Additionally, substituting water for a soda at restaurants can save you the added sugar. And if you prefer a little flavor in your drink, unsweetened iced tea is a great idea.
2. Veggies, Veggies, Veggies
When eating out, it can be difficult to get in those vegetables. A great alternative when choosing a side is always vegetables! If they do not have an option of grilled veggies on the side, ask to make a request for whatever vegetables the chef has available. A side salad is usually available as well. Veggies are great because they have fiber, which helps you stay feeling full!
3. Take A Break During Your Meal
I tell this to a lot of my clients so they can work on being more mindful at meals. It can be a really good idea to pause a few times while eating to assess your hunger and fullness levels. Putting the fork down in between bites also helps to slow down the pace of eating, which allows your brain to register fullness. It can up to 20 minutes for your brain and stomach to communicate and tell you that you’re actually full!
4. Watch Your Portion Sizes at Restaurants
When in doubt with choosing your entrée, keep in mind that ordering two or even three sides could make an entire meal. They add up to be the same price as an entrée and they typically are healthier options with normal portions. One of my favorite combinations of sides is sweet potato, broccoli or asparagus, and a salad. This can sometimes be more fun because it’s more personal! Be sure to add a good source of protein by adding some chicken, shrimp, fish or beef.
5. Try Not To Double Dip
Thing about the REBEL MyPlate when ordering your meal. Where are the carbs coming from in the meal? How about the protein and veggies? Take a classic restaurant meal, burger and fries. The bun on the burger counts as the carbs, the patty counts as the protein, but what about the fries? They are double dipping as carbs. Instead, trying switching out your fries for a side salad or vegetable. Are you in the mood for fries? Then ditch the bun and enjoy your burger or chicken sandwich in a lettuce wrap.
6. Be Mindful Of Dessert
Try starting off by choosing a smaller portion dessert or even share the dessert with the entire table so you only have a few bites. Getting dessert to go, or waiting a little bit after the meal to determine if you are in the mood for dessert is helpful in making sure you stay on track with your nutrition goals.
By just being conscious about what you are eating when you are out, is one step in the process of eating healthier! If you have the chance to pack your own meal for your lunch break or while you run errands, this would be a great alternative to eating out! However, keep these tips in mind for those times when you do choose to dine out.
What is your favorite healthy tip for eating in restaurants? Need help navigating restaurant eating? Make an appointment with one of Registered Dietitian Nutritionists, contact us here today!
Whether you are a novice in the kitchen, or a seasoned chef, Dietitian Klara will work with you to help you reach your nutrition goals. Co-author of Nourished: 10 Ingredients to Happy, Healthy Eating, Cooking with Diabetes and Cooking with Food Sensitivities Guide.