How to Make Healthier Choices When Dining Out
Restaurants want to make food that tastes good. Unfortunately they don’t care much about your health or nutrition goals. Most takeaway food options are calorie dense, loaded with sugar or drizzled in oil. Portion sizes of the meals we typically eat have increased over time, contributing to the obesity crisis we see today. The good news is that you don’t have to avoid dining out in order to be healthy. If you follow these simple tips detailed below, you will be able to enjoy eating out while still achieving your fitness goals.
Look up the menu in advance
If you’re planning a meal out, look up the menu in advance and ideally pick a place that offers nutrition information. Establishments like Pita Pit, Wok Express and Burger Fuel also have calorie information available on their websites that can help you decide. Studies show that people make poorer food decisions when they are time scarce. By preparing in advance and looking up the menu before you go, you increase your likelihood of making a health conscious choice.
When looking at a menu, you want to avoid options described as crispy, fried and creamy because these will likely be calorie dense. The method of food preparation significantly affects its nutrition content. High fat foods aren’t necessarily unhealthy, however restaurant dishes tend to contain superfluous amounts of oil and butter. You’d be better off ordering things that are steamed, grilled or boiled.
Portion sizes these days are out of control. A typical nachos meal from a restaurant can be around 2100 calories. This amount is what an average adult should consume throughout an entire day, not in one meal. If you are craving a hearty meal, you should go halves with a friend. This would save you both dollars and calories.
Alternatively you could order an entree instead of a main meal. Studies show that those who eat larger portions at restaurants consume more calories but don’t feel more satisfied than those who consume smaller meals. If you pick an entree as your main meal you still get to enjoy the dining out experience without consuming unnecessary amounts of food.
Customise your meal
“He who pays the piper picks the tune”. Don’t be afraid to be fussy with your food and customise your meal any way you want. Ask the waiter if your steak can be cooked without butter or if you can have the burger without the bun. They are in the business of customer service and should be able to make your meal however you want.
If at a cafe, you could order off the sides menu rather than ordering a main meal. A standard eggs benedict can be around 1000 calories. Instead you could order two poached eggs, a side of spinach, tomato and salmon. This would be a good way to control your portion sizes and ensure you don’t get given any unnecessary extras.
Dressing on the side
The proof is in the pudding and the calories are usually in the dressings. That little pottle of aioli that comes with your meal can be an unnecessary bomb of fats, sugars and other unnecessary ingredients. The salad may sound like the healthy option but a meagre 30 grams of caesar dressing can be over 160 calories. One way to get around this is to request your sauce to come on the side of your dish. Asking for sauce on the side means you can decide how much actually gets used. This simple trick could save you hundreds of calories in the long run. Less calories spent on sauce means more available for things like meat, cheese and vegetables (the foods that actually help you feel satisfied). Get into the habit of always asking for sauce on the side and if you do want some dressing, pick a healthier option like lemon juice or balsamic vinegar.
Eating out doesn’t have to throw a spanner in the works of your nutrition goals. It all comes down to what choices you make. Stick to the water, be assertive and ask for a meal that fits your macros. Life is about balance. Enjoy the odd meal out but don’t let it get in the way of being your healthiest self.