In a perfect world, you’ll have all the time to prepare your own lunch and bring it to work. But in a fast-paced world where everyone’s busy and you hardly have the time to cook, it’s usually more practical to just buy your lunch outside.
The problem with eating out for lunch, especially if you do it all the time, is that you can be eating all the wrong things and placing added calories and fat to your body. If you want to keep eating out but remain healthy, you shouldn’t just go for the most convenient burger or the bestselling lunch combo from the nearest restaurant.
Lunch can actually be quite an enjoyable meal that will sustain you for the rest of the day, and you don’t have to keep feeling guilty about it. Here are 8 tips on how you can start enjoying your lunch outs without feeling guilty all the time:
1. Be aware of the healthier options.
It’s always better to come in prepared, especially if you’re trying your best to lose weight. So before you enter a restaurant or deli or café, check what they have available beforehand. Not all restaurants will have their healthier options in a separate section of the menu, so it’s best if you study the menu (many are available online!) and create a shortlist from there. This not only ensures that you get something healthy, but you can also budget your meals properly.
2. Go for grilled rather than fried.
Whether you’re ordering a sandwich, a salad, or a full meal, always check how the meat is cooked. It may be a salad wrap but if it has fried chicken strips in it you’ll still get unnecessary calories. Steer away from anything with ‘fried’ in the description, and opt for grilled options instead. If you’re keen on a particular item in the menu, ask if you can have it grilled instead of fried.
3. Embrace the salads.
Some salads can be quite filling, so don’t think you can’t order them for lunch. In fact, some of the best lunch combos would have a soup and a salad in there somewhere, and you can stick to this instead of another calorie-heavy option.
There are also salads that have meat in them already, so this is a real lunch option for you. There are also pasta salads, but you might want to skip that if you’re trying to minimize on the carbs.
4. Skip anything that says double.
If you can, order the smallest sandwich they have on the menu. A 12-inch sub for instance can be cut in half and you can order just the half instead of the entire foot-long one. If any menu item has the word ‘double’ in it, run the opposite direction. Remember that the smaller your portion size, the better. But do your homework beforehand because the goal is not to starve yourself but to just cut back a little bit.
5. Watch your sides.
You can order something really healthy for a main course but if the sides are notoriously unhealthy and fattening, then it defeats the purpose. The good thing about many lunch orders is that you can actually substitute the sides for something healthier. Instead of deep-fried potatoes, you can get a salad. Instead of a pastry, you can get a fresh fruit. Don’t be afraid to ask for healthier options, because you’ll be the one to suffer if you stuff yourself too full.
6. Skip the cream.
You can make healthier choices simply by skipping everything cream-based. Say you want a pasta dish. Instead of creamy carbonara, maybe you can go for one with a tomato-based sauce. If you’re having a salad, pick the vinaigrette instead of the creamy ranch dressing. Instead of a creamy pumpkin soup, pick the broth-based vegetable soup instead. These are very simple choices that you think may not mean much but actually add up to a lot of calories being saved.
7. Beware of the cheeses and sauces.
Sometimes the calories add up because of the cheeses and sauces and not because of the main entrée. So pay attention to the sauce that a certain lunch meal comes with. You can opt for sauces that are lower in fat and calories, and you can actually ask the restaurant if they have this option available for you. Go for the sandwiches that don’t have mayonnaise, cheese, and other fattening sauces.
8. Drink up.
You also have to pay attention to what you’re drinking with the meal, because you can easily gain back all the calories you’re cutting back on with a can of soda or a milkshake. If you can stick to water, this is the best option because it gives you no calories at all.