While there are many people who manage to stick to a healthy diet by preparing most of their meals and snacks at home, dining out usually presents a unique challenge. Any restaurant you are likely to visit has a limited menu and much of the time, making healthy selections from the menu is a real challenge. It’s true that the vast majority of eateries offer some type of salad, but opting for that each and every time you go out to eat can get old quickly. Here are a few tips to help when you’re dining out.
1. BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU EAT
It’s easier these days than ever to learn a lot about an establishment before you actually walk in, sit down and order a meal. Most restaurants these days have an online presence that includes their menu, making it easy to select a place that offers the kind of food you like and offers healthy meal options. While an all-you-can-eat or buffet establishment might make for an enjoyable indulgence once in a while, avoid making a habit of it since it is so easy to overeat when you know you are not paying for every additional helping.
2. CHOOSE HEALTHY SIDE DISHES
Some things just go together, right? Like peanut butter and jelly or pancakes and maple syrup. That’s one reason it might be so tempting to order fries with that hamburger, but that’s definitely not the best choice for someone who is making a serious effort to stay on a healthy diet.
You may be stretching things just a bit by ordering the hamburger in the first place, but you are much better off skipping the fries and ordering a more sensible side with it like steamed vegetables or a salad. Most restaurants these days are quite flexible and will allow healthier substitutions to accommodate those with health-related dietary restrictions.
3. DON’T OVEREAT
We’ve all been in situations where we order something at a restaurant only to end up disappointed when the food arrives and we see how small the portions are. We’re not likely to return to that establishment anytime soon. On the other hand, we probably all know about places that pile the food up generously, making sure their customers get their money’s worth.
Those are the places we need to be cautious about because it is so easy to overeat when you are out enjoying a good time with friends or family. Be very careful to avoid pushing yourself past that “full” feeling. Just stop and take any leftovers home to save for later or to give the dog a special treat.
4. CHOOSE THE RIGHT BEVERAGES
Who goes out to eat and doesn’t order something to drink with their meal? Restaurants are famous for offering an array of sugar-laden beverages like soda, iced tea, and lemonade, and those are all choices that should be avoided as often as possible.
Opt for water with a bit of lemon in some soda water instead. In addition to all the extra calories that accompany things like soda, the sugar content raises your blood sugar and is detrimental to gut health, among other things. A glass of wine is another good option but call it quits after one, even if you aren’t driving.
5. SAY “NO” TO THE FREEBIES
Many restaurants pride themselves on the pre-meal freebies they bring out for their guests, and much of the time those freebies are things like bread, rolls, biscuits, and butter. While it may not seem like it, indulging in these free offerings can really throw your healthy eating plan seriously off course.
These treats often have hundreds of calories that you are piling on even before you start on the main meal. Believe it or not, bread or other carb-heavy offerings can actually stimulate your body to produce insulin, which ends up making you even more hungry!
6. JUST SAY “NO” TO FRIED FOOD
There’s no doubt that fried foods can be incredibly tempting, especially when everyone else at the table is ordering them. What they may not know is that fried foods are a real burden on your digestive system and tend to slow things down considerably, which can make you feel worn out and sluggish. One thing people don’t need when they’re trying to be healthy is further motivation to sit around and do nothing!
7. EAT SLOWLY
While we normally think of the brain as an organ that is capable of processing information at incredible speed, it might be surprising to learn that it’s actually a bit slow when it comes to certain functions related to eating.
For example, it takes your brain about 20 minutes to realize that your stomach is no longer empty. Knowing this, it is easy to see how quickly shoveling your food down like you are eating your last meal can lead to overeating. Slow things down and chew your food thoroughly, which will greatly aid digestion and allow your brain to catch up with your stomach when you’ve had enough.