If you’re trying to stay healthy, this might be a bit overwhelming at first. There are so many options, most of which look delicious and appetizing. But you know that many of them could ruin all of the work you’ve put into your carefully managed diet.
I’m here to tell you that they don’t have to be so bad.
So here are 20 ways for you to stay healthy while dining out.
1. Look Up the Menu Online
Instead of facing the anxiety of racing the clock, hoping you find the right food to order before the waiter comes back, check the menu out in advance!
This way, you’ll already know what foods are the healthiest on the menu without having to tell the waiter you need more time to choose. You’ll also know more details about the foods themselves, like how they’re prepared and what all goes into them, helping you stay informed.
You might even be able to impress your fellow diners with your knowledge and help them to make better choices when they order.
2. Order Water Instead
When you go out to eat, there are practically limitless options of drinks available, ranging from sugary sodas to carb-heavy beers.
You can order water instead, and drink it throughout your meal.
3. Choose the Salad
If a meal comes with an optional salad, it’s a good idea to say yes. Especially if the main course is light on veggies.
According to research from Pennsylvania State University, ordering the salad will also temper your appetite, so you won’t go all out on the main course, keeping your overall calorie intake low.
4. Limit the Bread Baskets and Chips
A lot of restaurants these days offer unlimited bread sticks or bowl after bowl of chip refills. While this might be a great business model for the restaurant, enticing hungry customers to fill up on cheap sides, it’s not always the best for your weight loss efforts.
The calories can really add up when you sit there stuffing your face with bread or chips waiting for your food to come along. And when they say unlimited, they usually mean it. Before you know it, you’ll have consumed a meal’s worth of calories before ever getting to your entrée.
5. Look for the Light Options
Most popular restaurants these days offer lighter fare, usually in a section toward the back end of the menu. While these may not be as alluring as the gigantic steak or pasta platters, they’ll likely contain hundreds of fewer calories than those other options.
The light options also usually conveniently include their total calorie count, while the more popular items on the menu aren’t as likely to.
6. Be Wary of Seductive Menu Descriptions
Restaurant menus are always trying to sell you on particular menu items. When you look at the light options, it may claim they’re tasty and healthy, but they don’t really push as hard to sell those as they do their more popular items.
Just because the menu goes into great detail about how wonderful, perfect, and satisfying something on the menu is, you can still choose one you know will be better for your health.
7. Try Fish Instead
If a restaurant has fish available, it’s often a good choice.
Fish is full of healthy essential nutrients that are hard to find elsewhere.
8. Eat Slowly
You may be one of those people who loves your food so much that you can’t wait to eat it all as fast as you can. While this might seem appealing if you aren’t spilling it all over yourself or generally making people around you uncomfortable, you’re actually doing yourself a disservice.
If you eat slowly, you can chew your food more efficiently, savor the flavor, and allow your brain to catch up with your mouth.
9. Consider Making the Appetizer the Meal
Sometimes, those appetizers are pretty huge.
While they’re usually cheaper and smaller portioned than the entrees, leading you to believe you should be ordering your main course from elsewhere on the menu, they can actually be the healthier option.
If you’re worried you won’t feel full after eating only an appetizer, order a salad along with it. Altogether, you’ll spend less money, and likely consume fewer calories. Because there might be less on the plate, you can eat it slower, and feel fuller for it.
10. Order Before Everyone Else
If you wait until everyone else orders to make your selection, you may feel like your initial choice is more boring than theirs. In order to match or top them, you might forget about your diet and get something similar to what they’re getting.
11. Keep it Simple
When ordering a meal, don’t go all out on toppings or sides. Stick with the simpler forms of the meal.
12. Keep an Eye Out for Red Flags
If the descriptors in the menu include words like creamy, breaded, crispy, stuffed, sauced, buttery, sautéed, pan-fried, or scalloped, odds are they’re high in added calories.
13. Customize Your Meal
You don’t have to settle for the meal the way it comes.
When it comes to choosing your sides, make decisions that are also in line with your weight loss and health goals.
14. Be Careful With Alcoholic Beverages
The big chain restaurants that also have bar areas really like to include a whole line of colorful and flavorful alcoholic drinks to tempt the 21 and over crowd into sampling them.
Margaritas, piña coladas, and drinks made with ice cream will sometimes have as many calories in them as a meal. Not only is the alcohol itself something you should watch out for while on a diet, the extra ingredients in these drinks make them very high in calories.
If you intend to drink, try simple drinks, either with water or club soda, or red wines.
15. Ask for a To-Go Box
It’s just not in your best interest to always finish everything in front of you. Portion control is extremely important, especially when you eat out, as a lot of the time there’s far more than a single serving size present on your plate.
So, there are two ways of doing this. First, you could ask for the to-go box with your entrée and split up from the beginning what you intend to eat and what you want to take home and eat another time. Or, you can wait until you feel full and don’t want any more to push the rest off your plate and into the box.
If you make use of these tips and tricks when dining out, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions.