Eating out can be one of the biggest challenges out there for people trying to eat healthier and lose weight. I’ve employed a few tips for eating healthy when dining out that have helped me over the last few years.
1. Eat grilled or baked. Typically, grilled or baked are better than other options. You do have to be careful about what it put on the food – such as butter or oils – as it’s being prepared. For the most part, though, grilled or baked is a fairly safe option.
2. Ask for condiments on the side. I always ask for dressings, sauces, and most other condiments on the side. I employ the “dip your fork in the dressing” technique, typically resulting in using much less than if the dressing or sauce was poured over my salad or entrée.
3. Salads are not necessarily a healthy choice. Though it seems healthier, restaurant salads usually have high levels of sodium. Not only that, but depending on what it’s topped with, a salad can have a higher calorie content than some of the entrée choices.
I do usually have a side salad – with veggies and a small amount of cheese – instead of fries when I go to Chick-Fil-A. Before you order a salad, find out what’s on it. Leave off things like: croutons, fried onions, and dried fruits.
4. Order a kid’s meal. Some restaurants will charge adults extra for ordering a kid’s meal, but it’s usually still less than ordering an adult entrée and involve a much more reasonable serving size. I like to order a kid’s meal at Chili’s with grilled chicken, corn-on-the-cob (with no butter – it’s just as good) and a side of black beans. It’s delicious! And, even better, it’s reasonable, calorie-wise.
5. Ask for modifications. Don’t be afraid to ask for modifications – foods grilled without oil or butter, calorie-laden ingredients left off, seasonal veggies instead of fries or a baked potato.
6. Plan your meal before you go. Search online for the restaurant’s nutritional information and plan out your meal before you leave the house – then, stick to your plan!
When I first started losing weight, I would plan my meal from home and, then, I wouldn’t even look at the menu when I got there, lest I be tempted.
7. Eat soup. Order a cup of soup as an appetizer. Just make sure it’s broth-based instead of cream-based. After you eat your soup, chat with friends awhile before digging into your entrée, so your stomach has time to tell your brain you’re getting full.
8. Drink water. I have a really hard time with this one. I like to drink my lunch and dinner sweet tea no matter where I’m eating, but sugary drinks are empty calories. At the very least, drink a glass or two of water before you eat. The fullness will help keep you from overeating.
9. Ask for a to-go box. Ask for a take-home box as soon as your meal arrives so you can go ahead and box half of it up. Have it for lunch tomorrow or send it home with a friend or with your husband for lunch.
10. Skip the bread basket. Ask that the bread basket, chips and salsa, or whatever pre-dinner food the restaurant supplies not be left on the table. It’s too much temptation.
What techniques have you found to help you eat healthier when dining out?
Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.