By: Madison Winston (NASM-CPT)
Eating out can get in the way of our health goals, but it doesn’t have to. Here are my tips to survive eating out:
- Portion Control – it may seem obvious but restaurant portions are getting bigger every day and eating a whole order has been glamorized by TV and the media. My rule of thumb is to stop eating when you are full. If this is hard for you, ask for a to-go box when the waiter brings your food and immediately put half in the to-go box. If it’s already boxed away, you will be much less likely to eat more than you want to.
- Drink a glass of water – do this before your food is brought to you. Drinking a glass of water can make us feel full, helping us avoid overeating. Did you know that many people mistake being thirsty for being hungry? Sipping on water can help us determine if you are actually hungry or just thirsty BEFORE we eat.
- Dressing on the side – salads are not always healthy. Restaurants tend to use dressings loaded with fat and calories. They also drown the salad rather than “dress” it. If you are going to order a salad, ask for the dressing on the side and add it yourself so you can control how much is on your salad, or ask your waiter for a light/low-calorie, low fat dressing option.
- Look up the menu ahead of time – doing this can give you time to pick a healthy option before you get there. This way you know what you’re going to order and are less likely to choose an unhealthy option on the spot. Many restaurants also have their nutrition information posted on their websites for your convenience.
- Carbs are not your enemy – they give us fuel! However, when ordering pasta or a sandwich, look for whole wheat options when available. Try to order pasta and sandwiches loaded with veggies and protein. When ordering pasta, avoid cheesy, cream sauces. Instead, look for vegetable-based sauces. For sandwiches, hold the mayo or other creamy sauces as they can add a ton of extra calories and make a healthy option not so healthy. Instead, choose mustard, hot sauce, guacamole, or hummus!
- Be careful of the “freebies” – I’m talking about the bread and chips. For many of us, these are our weakness. How can you refuse these when you show up to the restaurant hungry and they are staring right at you? Personally, I think it is unrealistic to say, “I won’t eat any”. Rather, focus on portion control. Try to only have 1 piece of bread and remember that a serving size of chips is usually 12-15. Put a set amount on your plate and stick to that single serving.
- Sides – many dishes come with a side of fries. Look over your menu to see what other sides are available. If none are listed, ask for waiter for a side salad or fruit instead.
- Dessert – If you see something you just can’t resist, I have a rule to never deprive yourself and I’m a dessert addict. Ask for multiple spoons so you can share with everyone. Remember, the portions are often HUGE so moderation is key!
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