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How To Eat Healthy When Dining Out In Restaurants

Weight loss and fitness programs usually ignore one crucial thing when telling you to eat healthier: Most people eat out at restaurants at least several times a week.

It's of course possible to eat very fattening, calorie-heavy foods in restaurants, but the good news is that it's very possible to eat healthy as well by making a few simple tweaks to your restaurant habits.

Here are some simple tips to drastically decrease the amount of calories you take in at restaurants, so dining out can fit into your healthy lifestyle:

1) Don't go to a restaurant starving. -The temptation to "pig out" when going to a restaurant is very high, and you're not helping matters if you haven't eat anything for 7 hours when you go. The solution: Eat a healthy snack at home before you go.

2) Don't take in liquid calories. -Don't drink sodas, diet sodas (which increase your appetite!), milk, or any other drink that contains calories. Stick to unsweetened iced tea or plain water. Tip: If you're drinking water, tell your server that you're very thirsty and ask for a large glass of water with a lemon if they bring one of those tiny water glasses they sometimes do.

3) Don't eat the bread. -Again, we're cutting out the useless calories here. The only time I'm tempted to eat the bread is if I'm starving already while waiting for the food to come out, and if you follow tip #1 this won't happen. Tip: If you do eat some of the bread, don't put butter on it. Good bread should taste good without butter anyway, and if it doesn't, you really shouldn't be eating it anyway.

4) Healthy-sounding menu items can still have an enormous amount of calories. Just because something is a salad doesn't mean it's healthy. A chef's salad, with its ham, cheese, and heavy ranch or blue-cheese dressing can actually be one of the highest calorie foods on the menu.

Tip: Always get dressings and sauces on the side when you can. Not only does it allow you to regulate and monitor how much you use, but can also help you enjoy your meal better. If you've ever gotten a saladsoaked in dressing or an entree floating in a rich sauce, you know that sometimes too much is worse than enough.

5) Ask how items are prepared. Often, it's not the actual food that is unhealthy, but how it's cooked. Don't order anything fried, breaded, batter-dipped, or that comes in a cream sauce. If it doesn't say how something is prepared, ask. These two simple questions can single-handedly cut a huge amount of calories:

  1. "Can I get that grilled, please?"

  2. "Can I get the sauce on the side, please?"

  3. "Can I get that steamed instead of sautéd, please?"

You may feel awkward asking at first, but you'll soon realize that restaurants are used to it and are happy to oblige.

6) Choose healthier sides. If you've asked for your entreé grilled/sauce on the side, you're already being much healthier. But often, it's the side dishes that can do you in. If you ordered a steak, don't get the fries or baked potato with all the trimmings, either get a plain potato, or as to substitute steamed vegetables. If you're getting breakfast, instead of hashed browns, substitute fruit or sliced tomatoes.

7) You don't have to eat everything. A lot of restaurants serve extremely large portions that will put you wildly over your caloric needs if you eat it all. Get used to taking food home. There's nothing worse than having a great meal but actually feeling uncomfortable when it's over because you ate too much. This usually happens if you show up at the restaurant too hungry in the first place.

8) Skip dessert. If your friends are ordering desert, order coffee so you've got something to do while they're eating. If you really want desert, order one desert with your friend(s) and split it. Again, it may seem weird at first but trust me, your waiter is used to bringing out multiple forks and spoons for a dessert.

By following these simple tips, you can successfully dine out at restaurants and still eat healthy and not blow your diet. For more healthy eating tips, click here.

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