Whether it’s for work or pleasure, we all dine at restaurants every so often. And what you eat at the restaurant matters, since different foods can influence how we feel. Restaurant meals are known to be indulgent, despite the increase in lighter options for the health-conscious patrons. Enjoying a decadent meal is fine, but if it starts to happen several times a week, you may notice a negative impact on your health. It’s important to maintain balance and moderation with healthy and indulgent dishes.
But eating healthy at a restaurant doesn’t always mean dry salads and skinless chicken breast with a side of steamed veggies. So long as you prioritize what matters most to you and make the most of your splurges, you can feel good about your choices and leave the restaurant feeling happy and satisfied.
Here are some ways to eat healthy at restaurants the next time you dine out.
Check The Menu Ahead Of Time
Choose the restaurant and make a reservation in advance. That way, you can skip the wait times and plan your meal ahead of time. This also give you time to do your research – check out the menus and read customer reviews. By taking this extra step, you can cut down on the anxiety of choosing on the spot, and can share your knowledge with your guests if they need help deciding. And by choosing your meal ahead of time, you can make adjustments throughout the day accordingly. For example, if you’re going for a heavy dish, you can go light for lunch with a grilled chicken salad.
Start With Salad
A smart appetizer choice is a simple salad. You want it to be mostly greens and veggies since the fiber and water in lettuce will help to fill you up and prevent overeating later in the meal. Remember that additional toppings (ex. nuts, croutons, grains, cheese, dried fruit, avocado) can add up quickly.
And despite how cliché it may sound, asking for the dressing on the side and lightly dressing your salad yourself can really save you from added calories, sodium, sugar, etc. Ditching the dressing all together and opting for just oil and vinegar is even better.
If you want to make the salad your meal, just be sure you’ve got a protein, say chicken, fish, eggs, or beans.
Prioritize Protein & Veggies
The protein and veggies combination provides you with vitamins, minerals, and filling fiber to keep your satisfied longer. And in comparison to breads and pastas, they tend to be harder to overeat. What might get you is the restaurant portions, so be mindful. Often times, restaurants serve (at least) twice what you should eat in one sitting, especially with meat and fish. Resolve to save half to top the following day’s salad, or give yourself permission to not finish your plate.
What people often struggle with is choosing between carbohydrates, alcohol, appetizers, and desserts. Your best bet is to pick two, maximum. Choose the carb that matters most (bread, potatoes, pasta, a grain) and then consider whether you’re in the mood for a drink or dessert.
For example, if you really want bread, avoid the starch in your main dish. If you know the particular restaurant has to-die-for desserts, consider nixing the others. And if you really want a cocktail, swap it for one of the others. On the topic of alcohol, be sure to choose a drink that feels worth it to you and please drink responsibly. Also remember that it is also okay to not drink.
If one or more of your guests are inclined, try splitting a dish. This helps to keep realistic portions and may allow you to sample a variety of dishes. Just remember to keep it balanced.
With small plates or appetizers, choose wisely. It’s easy to lose track of how much you’ve had to eat. Again keep it balanced by choosing some vegetables, some protein, and a couple of more indulgent items on the menu.
Mind Your Own Plate
Your plate is your business. Don’t compare what others are having to what you are having. We all have different nutritional needs so there’s no need to feel guilty about your choices. If you feel like you overdid it with your meal, know that it’s not the end of the world and you can get back on track with your next meal.