Eating out at restaurants doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your commitment to a healthy diet. Many restaurants today offer a variety of nutritious options that can satisfy your taste buds while keeping your health goals on track.
1. Research the Menu in Advance
Before heading to a restaurant, take a few minutes to check out their menu online. Most restaurants now provide their menus on their websites, along with nutritional information. This allows you to plan your meal ahead of time, making it easier to stick to your healthy eating goals.
2. Opt for Appetizers or Small Plates
Instead of indulging in a large, calorie-laden entrée, consider ordering appetizers or small plates. These dishes are often more portion-controlled and can help you avoid overeating. Look for options like salads, soups, or vegetable-based starters.
3. Choose Grilled or Baked Over Fried
When selecting your main course, opt for dishes that are grilled or baked rather than fried. Grilled chicken, fish, or vegetables are often leaner and contain fewer calories than their fried counterparts. This choice can make a significant difference in the overall nutritional value of your meal.
4. Load Up on Veggies
Vegetables are a staple in many restaurant menus. Incorporate them into your meal as much as possible. Whether as a side dish, salad, or main course, vegetables provide essential nutrients, fiber, and a feeling of fullness that can help control your appetite.
5. Be Mindful of Dressings and Sauces
Salads can be a healthy choice, but beware of the dressings and sauces. Many restaurant dressings are high in calories and unhealthy fats. Ask for dressings on the side, or opt for vinaigrettes or yogurt-based options, which tend to be lighter and more nutritious.
6. Request Modifications
Don’t be afraid to ask for modifications to your meal. Most restaurants are willing to accommodate special requests. For example, you can ask for your dish to be prepared with less oil, sauce on the side, or no added salt. Customizing your order can make a significant difference in its nutritional content.
7. Choose Lean Proteins
Protein is a vital component of a healthy meal, but not all protein sources are created equal. Opt for lean protein options like skinless poultry, fish, tofu, or beans. These choices are lower in saturated fats and can help you maintain a balanced diet.
8. Watch Portion Sizes
Restaurant portions are often more substantial than what you’d serve at home. To prevent overeating, consider sharing a dish with your dining partner or asking for a to-go box at the beginning of the meal to pack up half of your meal for later.
9. Select Whole Grains
If given the option, choose dishes that include whole grains. Whole grain options like brown rice, quinoa, or whole wheat pasta provide more fiber and nutrients compared to their refined counterparts, helping you feel full and satisfied.
10. Limit Alcohol and Sugary Drinks
Alcoholic beverages and sugary drinks can quickly add empty calories to your meal. If you want to enjoy a drink, opt for a glass of wine or a light beer. Otherwise, stick with water, unsweetened iced tea, or other low-calorie options.
11. Skip the Bread Basket
While it’s tempting to indulge in the complimentary bread or chips offered at many restaurants, they can add unnecessary calories before your meal even begins. Consider asking your server to skip the bread basket altogether.
12. Pay Attention to Cooking Methods
Different cooking methods can impact the nutritional content of your meal. Steamed, roasted, or poached dishes are often healthier choices than those that are sautéed in butter or deep-fried.
13. Be Cautious with Desserts
If you want to indulge in dessert, share it with your dining companion or choose a healthier option like fresh fruit or sorbet. If you can’t resist a decadent dessert, try to keep the portion small.
14. Stay Hydrated
Water is essential for a healthy meal. Drinking a glass of water before your meal can help control your appetite and prevent overeating. Staying hydrated is key to making smart food choices.
15. Listen to Your Body
Pay attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. Stop eating when you’re satisfied, even if there’s food left on your plate. It’s okay to take leftovers home for another meal.
16. Avoid All-You-Can-Eat Buffets
While buffets offer variety, they can also lead to overindulgence. It’s challenging to control portion sizes in a buffet setting, making it easier to overeat. If you do visit a buffet, be mindful of your choices and try to fill your plate with vegetables and lean proteins.
17. Consider Ethnic Cuisine
Explore restaurants that offer international cuisine. Many ethnic restaurants feature dishes that emphasize vegetables, lean proteins, and unique flavor profiles. Mediterranean, Japanese, and Vietnamese cuisine, for instance, often have healthy options.
18. Don’t Stress Over Special Occasions
Occasional indulgence is a part of life. If you’re celebrating a special occasion or dining out for a treat, allow yourself to enjoy the experience without guilt. Just remember to return to your regular healthy eating habits afterward.
19. Practice Moderation
In the end, the key to healthy dining at restaurants is moderation. You don’t have to forgo your favorite restaurant meals entirely. By making mindful choices and practicing moderation, you can enjoy dining out while staying on the path to a healthy lifestyle.
20. Support Restaurants with Healthy Menus
As the demand for healthier dining options grows, more restaurants are expanding their menus to include nutritious choices. Support these establishments to encourage the trend toward healthier eating out.