Dining out is a wonderful experience, filled with delicious flavors and social connections. However, it can be a bit challenging when you’re on a diet and trying to stick to your nutritional goals. The good news is that you don’t need to avoid restaurants altogether. With a little planning and some smart choices, you can enjoy restaurant meals while staying true to your diet. This article will guide you on what to order in a restaurant when you’re on a diet, so you can savor your dining experience without derailing your health and fitness goals.
1. Research the Menu in Advance
One of the best ways to make diet-friendly choices in a restaurant is to do your homework before you even step inside. Many restaurants nowadays have their menus available online. Take advantage of this by perusing the menu in advance. Look for options that align with your dietary preferences and restrictions. This can save you from making impulsive choices when you’re hungry and faced with a multitude of tantalizing options.
2. Start with a Smart Appetizer
Choosing a healthy appetizer is a great way to kick off your restaurant meal. Opt for options like a salad with vinaigrette dressing, a broth-based soup, or vegetable-based starters. These choices can help curb your appetite and provide essential nutrients without adding too many calories.
3. Load Up on Veggies
Most restaurant menus offer a variety of vegetable-based dishes. When ordering your main course, prioritize meals that feature a generous serving of vegetables. Steamed or grilled vegetables are excellent side options, and they can add color, fiber, and vitamins to your plate. Whether it’s roasted carrots, sautéed spinach, or a mixed vegetable medley, these side dishes can enhance your dining experience while keeping your diet on track.
4. Choose Lean Proteins
Protein is essential for your diet, and restaurants usually offer a range of protein-rich choices. Opt for lean sources of protein like grilled chicken, turkey, fish, or tofu. Be cautious of high-fat cuts of meat and heavy cream sauces, as they can add unnecessary calories and saturated fats to your meal.
5. Mind Your Portions
Restaurant portions can often be larger than what’s necessary for one meal. To control your calorie intake, consider sharing an entree with your dining companion or request a half portion. If sharing isn’t an option, ask your server for a to-go box when your meal arrives and pack up half of it before you start eating. This way, you can enjoy a satisfying meal while preventing overeating.
6. Be Wary of Sauces and Dressings
Sauces, dressings, and condiments can sneak in extra calories and unhealthy fats. When ordering, request dressings or sauces on the side, so you can control the amount you use. Choose vinaigrettes over creamy dressings and ask for lighter or reduced-fat options when available.
7. Skip the Bread Basket
Many restaurants offer bread or chips before the meal. To avoid unnecessary calories, it’s a wise choice to skip the bread basket. If you find it challenging, ask your server not to bring it to the table in the first place.
8. Hydrate Smartly
Staying hydrated is essential, but it’s crucial to make smart choices when it comes to beverages. Opt for water, unsweetened iced tea, or herbal tea instead of sugary sodas or calorie-laden cocktails. Not only will this save you calories, but it will also keep you feeling satisfied.
9. Be Assertive About Dietary Preferences
Don’t hesitate to communicate your dietary needs to the server or chef. Most restaurants are accommodating and willing to adjust dishes to meet your requirements. Whether you need gluten-free, vegetarian, or low-sodium options, don’t be afraid to voice your preferences.
10. Savor Your Meal Mindfully
Eating slowly and mindfully can help you enjoy your meal while recognizing your body’s fullness cues. Put down your fork between bites, engage in conversation, and relish each bite. By being mindful, you can prevent overeating and savor the flavors.