Tips for Healthy Eating While Dining Out
Even though menu planning and meal selection is best when performed at home, there are still healthy ways to eat when you are dining out. Everyone loves to have a dinner in a wonderful restaurant. You do not have to worry about who will do the dishes and you can avoid the whole cooking process, but restaurant meals tend to be real diet-breakers. Filled with fat, cholesterol and sodium, many restaurant foods taste delicious but offer none of the nutrients that a healthy body requires. Restaurants are renowned for cooking with huge amounts of butter and salt, 2 things that we really want to avoid when it comes to healthy eating.
Tip #1 - Keep It Simple
To avoid eating those foods that are going to knock your diet out of the park, stick to simple choices. If you can find something on the menu that is raw, steamed, grilled, broiled or baked, choose that item. In general, the less preparation that a food requires in order to make it edible, the more nutritious this food is for your body. This means that raw vegetables and fruits come first when you make your appetizer selection. If you can have a small salad as an appetizer, do that first. Pick the raw fruits and vegetables before you choose the meat for your entree. Steamed vegetables retain much of their nutrients as do baked vegetables. Avoiding fried foods is just the beginning when eating in a restaurant. Try to also avoid foods that are pureed because butter or heavy cream is often added to the puree.
Tip #2 - Avoid The Grease
This tip might seem a little over-used, but there is no better way to cut fat from your diet than by avoiding anything that is breaded and deep fried. Many restaurants serve deep fried cheese or vegetables as an appetizer. There is no real nutritional value in a vegetable once it has been covered in butter, egg and breading and doused in oil. If you can eat dinner without choosing any fried items from the menu, you have taken a big step toward healthier living and eating. Oils also hide in places that you probably would not suspect immediately. Remember that pan fried items are generally cooked in oils, as well. So that pan-fried tilapia is not as healthy as you might think. Restaurants are notorious for choosing butter over healthier fats like olive oil because butter tends to be less expansive and of course, tastes delicious.
Tip #3 - Watch Your Portion Sizes
A great way to save money and calories and fat is by eating an early-bird special at a restaurant. These meals are often smaller than the standard portions served for dinner and they come at a much lower price. Portion sizes are one of the worst mistakes that are made in nutrition. Although a small amount of fried chicken or a pat of butter is not terrible for your body, half of a fried chicken is pretty bad. Many restaurants serve huge portions in hopes of giving diners value for their money. Do you really need to eat 1/4 of a chicken at dinner? If the restaurant offers huge portions, divide your meal immediately into 2 smaller meals. Ask your waitress for a "to-go" box and place half of the meal in the box as soon as you receive the plate. This limits the quantity of food that you will eat at that meal without making you feel as if you are missing something.
Tip #4 - Skip The Sugary Drinks
When you order your meal at a restaurant, order water with the meal. Rather than drinking a giant soda that is loaded with sugar and calories, choose water with lemon. If you just cannot live without a soda, only order the smallest size. Many drinks come in such a large size that they will contain 300 calories or more and include 20 tablespoons of sugar. Water is vitally important for your body to function well and most of us do not get enough of it. Have water with your meal and you can splurge on a tiny dessert without the guilt. Water with lemon is flavorful and free.
Tip #5 – Try “Family Style” Ordering
Instead of having each person in your party order a separate appetizer and meal, try a family style order. Pick 2 or 3 appetizers and 2 or 3 entrees and share them between everyone in your party. This gives you a taste of many different menu items without the feeling that you must finish your entire plate of food. Since most restaurants serve huge portions anyway, family style dining is a great way to save money and enjoy the largest variety of food on the menu. Remember that you still need to stick to healthy options, so try an order of broiled fish or chicken and wild rice with appetizers that consist of foods that are not overly processed.
Tip #6 - Skip The Sauce
Even healthy dishes can become incredibly fattening when you put sauce on them. Broiled chicken is delicious, but add that garlic and cream sauce and you have taken all of the "healthy" out of the meal. If a meal requires a special sauce, ask your waiter to serve the sauce on the side. This rule applies to salads and dips as well as for meals. Even the most nutritious item on the menu is not good for you if you soak it in butter and heavy cream. Rather than avoiding sauce altogether, simply order it on the side and dip your fork into the sauce while you eat. You will have all of the flavor without the huge amount of fat and calories.
Restaurant dining is an important part of many of our lives. With hectic lives and busy schedules it is impossible to cook a meal at home every day. Choosing your entrees wisely will give you control over your nutrition and your diet when dining out.
Eating healthy snacks, making dieting easy!
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