Sure, cooking your own food at home is one of the best ways to ensure you are sticking with healthy eating habits. But committing yourself to a healthier lifestyle does not have to mean flipping the off switch on your social life! Making healthy choices at restaurants is totally doable. Here are our best tips on how to make better-for-you food decisions while dining out.
1. Choose the right restaurant.
Be an active participant when it comes to selecting a restaurant by finding eateries in your area that offer healthier options. Use an app like FourSquare or Yelp to search for quality restaurants with an emphasis on health. Make a list of your top three and suggest them to your group. This way, no matter which one is chosen, you know there will be wholesome options available.
2. Review the menu to decide ahead.
Once you have a restaurant locked down, scope out the menu. What options appear the healthiest? If you struggle with willpower when it comes to food, selecting an order in advance makes it easier to decline the leaning tower of nachos once you arrive. Make a decision and stick to it!
3. Ask about specials.
Let’s be real. You won’t always be able to select a restaurant with healthy options, scope out the menu in advance, and make a decision before dining out. There will be times when you run straight from work to a place chosen by your friend. Not all is lost! Ask your waiter about specials. Often these focus on more seasonal ingredients and will be the healthier choice.
4. Don’t limit yourself.
Sure, the salad section on the menu is a great place to start, but there are so many other options for healthy meals! Look for entrees with lean protein such as fish, chicken, or turkey. Skip the starchy sides (like fries) and ask for extra vegtables instead. Or maybe try a burger wrapped in lettuce (without the bun!) instead.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask.
Pipe up—don’t be afraid to ask your server about swaps they would recommend to keep it light. Can you swap out the fries for a spinach salad or extra veggies? Can they do a simple oil and vinegar dressing instead of ranch? Don’t be shy! It may seem strange at first, but there is nothing wrong with wanting to know what you are putting in your body.
6. Skip the dairy and gluten.
For many people, dairy and gluten can cause inflammation in the body and often lead to that horrible after dinner bloat. (Yes, I know the extra cheese always seems like a good idea at the time.) So while you are at it asking questions, inquire about dairy and gluten-free options.
7. Beware of certain ingredients.
There are certain words and ingredients on a menu that should raise red flags. Avoid items labled fried and salty items that may contain MSG. Be cautious of heavy cream ingredients that may be used in salad dressings and soups.
8. Go easy on the drinks.
Stick to lemon water (it’s free!), herbal tea, or sparkling water. If alcohol is involved, choose lighter drinks like vodka soda, a light beer, or red wine. Try to stay away from sugary drinks of the soda and cocktail variety.
So there you have it! Follow these tips when eating out and you will most likely leave feeling healthy and happy.
Tell us your strategies for keeping eating habits in check when dining out!
This article was originally published on April 18, 2016.