Eating out shouldn’t be considered as an excuse to sabotage your whole diet, especially if you eat out regularly. Eating out can still be a fun experience filled with delicious, but healthier, choices. Here are some tips and tricks for staying healthy at the restaurant:
Have the right mindset
Take some time to prepare before going out to eat. The first thing you want to do it’s create the right mindset. Don’t think of it as one big ‘cheat night.’ I like to allow myself a small treat every day, rather than dedicating a whole meal or day to binging. Surly you can enjoy yourself, but instead of choosing to most unhealthy meal you can think of, choose a balanced meal that is still healthy, but can also be considered a treat.
Choose your restaurant ahead of time. Most restaurants have their menus available online. Check it out and make your decision before you even get there. This way, you don’t have to look through the menu while you’re hungry and ready to eat. Not only telling yourself you will make a smart choice, but committing to a meal before you get to the restaurant will make you more likely to stick to that goal.
Don’t starve all day
Many people make the dire mistake of skipping meals before a night out to eat. They think they can make up for missed times. Skipping meals will only make you hungrier and more inclined to crave the fattier options. Think about it; you’re starving and you’ve been waiting for a good 30 minutes for your food to come out…would you be excited for a grilled chicken salad? Not so much. Eat like you normally would any other day. Try to plan it out so that your last meal is a light snack about 2-3 hours before going to the restaurant.
Make sure to control your portions, especially if you decide to treat yourself with your meal. Here are a few tips for portion control at a restaurant:
- Order from the kids menu if they have one
- Split a meal with a friend
- Turn an appetizer into a meal with a side salad
- Ask the waiter/waitress for a to-go container so you can put half of your plate out of sight to take home
- Ask the waiter/waitress not to bring bread to the table
Make substitutions when necessary. If you’re going to treat yourself to a cheeseburger, you probably don’t need the fries on the side. Order a side of salad or veggies instead and order a vinaigrette dressing, or oil and vinegar, over creamy salad dressings.
The most important question, should I have dessert? If are out to dinner for a special occasion, and you don’t do it often, I say go for it…only if you have room for it of course! If you ordered a healthy meal and were good with your portion sizes, a little piece of dessert on a special occasion is perfectly fine. Be sure to split it with at least one other person. On the other hand, if you tend to eat out often, and/or you decided to treat yourself with your main meal (maybe you ordered a cheese burger or a creamy pasta dish), then I would say skip the dessert for the night.
Remember that healthy eating is all about balance. Going out and treating yourself to a delicious dinner is fine, just find your balance by choosing a meal that is well-balanced (meaning it contains protein, carbs and fats), watching your portion sizes, and substitute with healthier options when you need to.