We’ve all been there: Staring at a menu and salivating at decadent descriptions of dishes you know you shouldn’t order, but sometimes the temptation is just so strong. While everyone needs a cheat meal from time to time, our best advice is to try sticking to a balanced meal plan even when you’re on the go, whenever possible.
It can be harder to eat healthy when you’re out at a restaurant, but the truth is, it is possible. There are two basic rules of thumb to go by when dining out. First, don’t over order. You know the old adage, your eyes are bigger than your stomach? Keep that top of mind when ordering. Once you do order, your next duty is to ignore what your mother or grandmother told you while growing up: Eat everything on your plate. You’re an adult now, and when you’re full, you’re full. You don’t need a membership in the “Clean Plate Club.”
How to Avoid High-Fat and High-Calorie Foods
Since most restaurants won’t have a breakdown of its dishes’ fat content or a calorie counter (although some menus do!), it can pose its own unique challenge just steering clear of decadent dishes. Some good advice is to avoid ingredients that are often added to food to enhance their flavor. Seasonings can be high in sodium, and sauces and dressings will always deliver more fat content than if you ordered the same meal sans sauce.
You’ll want to flip past the pages in your menu that are full of pastas or dinner choices chock full of creamy sauces. Sometimes the names of an entrée can be a sign that they’re high in fat; be on the lookout for words like “fried,” “stuffed,” or “alfredo” and avoid them. The cooking process itself can have a lot to do with its calorie count as well. Words that can be your friend when seeking out healthier options include: baked, broiled, grilled or steamed. Feel free to ask your server how they prepare the dish: Is it cooked with butter or olive oil or baked to perfection?
Your most healthy choice? It’s called a salad. This is a no-brainer, but don’t drown it in Ranch dressing, blue cheese crumbles or croutons. And, yes, a taco salad is a salad, but is it really?
Starters Are Mostly a No-Go!
Sometimes, they’ll just bring bread to your table, so you’ll have to avoid making eye contact with it or, thus, be tempted. But if your friendly, smiling carb delivery service—um, we mean server—asks if you want bread…resist! Although your impulses may be telling you otherwise, you don’t need the bread and butter. You have a full meal on the way!
Since you are eating a meal, you can skip the appetizers, too. Unless, you’re completely starving, of course. If this is the case, opt for an appetizer that consists of mostly vegetables or ask about the soup of the day. Your cup—not bowl—should be a broth-based appetizer, not a creamy chowder or a bisque. Be aware though, many broth-based soups can be high in sodium.
Alcohol and Desserts
Just because it’s a liquid doesn’t mean those calories don’t count. When you want to have a glass of wine with dinner, do it. But, be aware that alcohol can contribute to weight gain, too. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, and just can’t resist the dessert menu, try to read through your choices with your conscience intact. Sorbets and fresh fruit are a great option.
We also know that sometimes chocolate or cheesecake calls your name (it calls our name, too). If these more decadent items do speak to you, think about sharing it with others at the table so you’re not tempted to eat the whole thing by yourself (and cry about it in the bathroom later)!
Armed with this knowledge, you can make smart choices the next time you dine out with friends. Where do you tend to indulge? Let us know below!