After the indulgent foods eaten over the holidays,
I was determined to stay on track during a road
trip with my husband last week.
I packed water bottles, almonds, and apples for
snacks. However, eating out was inevitable. And
it's always harder to make healthy choices when
away from home.
So, what can we do to help us eat healthy when
we eat out? Here are 7 strategies that allow you
to enjoy eating meals out with family and friends
without derailing your healthy lifestyle.
1. Choose the restaurant
When you have the option, pick a restaurant with
healthy options. Look for cuisines centered around
whole grains, vegetables, and lean protein (Greek,
Indian, or Japanese).
Also, consider eating at places that have a seasonal
menu. They are likely to cook with fresh, local
meats and produce. This doesn't only make the
food taste better, but is generally better for you.
2. Preview the menu
You can find most restaurant menus online. This
allows you to check out the menu before you even
leave home. It is easier to make a wise decision at
home. . . you aren't as hungry and away from the
influence of what others are ordering.
In addition, once you arrive, the sight and smell of
food can make sticking to your plan more difficult.
Showing up with a plan of what to order will help
you avoid snap decision you might regret later.
3. Make a special request
When ordering your meal, don't be shy. Foods on
the menu described as fried, crispy, crunchy, or
creamy are often not going to be a good choice.
Politely ask your server if these meals can be
prepared steamed, grilled, or roasted.
It's usually easy to substitute a salad or double the
veggies. Asking for sauces and condiments on the
side can be a simple fix too. Most places are willing
to adapt their meals to meet your needs.
4. Box half your entree
So often, I have ordered something at a restaurant
with the intent of only eating half. I know most
American restaurants serve two to three times
more food than a serving. I put my fork down
several times and claim to be finished. As I chat
with friends, I unconsciously continue to eat. I'm
not hungry anymore. It's just there.
You can ask for an extra plate to divide your entree
yourself, or ask your server if they are able to box
up half right from the start. Another option is to
split an entree with someone. Either way, you're
getting two meals for the price of one.
5. Slow down
It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the
message from your stomach that it is full. If you
slow down, chew more, and put your fork down
between bites you are less likely to overeat.
You won't be left hungry either, because by this
time your brain senses you are no longer hungry
and you will feel satisfied.
6. Drink water
Just by replacing sugar sweetened drinks or alcohol
with water, you will reduce the calories at a meal.
In addition, those sodas and specialty drink don't
hydrate us and often leave us craving more sugar.
One study showed that those who drank 500 mL of
water 30 minutes before a meal ate fewer calories
than those who didn't. They felt full sooner and
didn't mistake thirst for hunger.
Alternate bites with big sips of water and it will also
force you to slow down. You'll better be able to
judge if you are even still hungry for that next bite.
7. Dress up to go out
I'm sure I eat twice as much at a meal in yoga pants
as in jeans. So, even if it's just going out to a casual
family meal try to dress nicely. (I'm talking pants
with a button)
In addition to less room in the waist band, you will
treat the meal differently. If you view it as a special
event, different from your everyday dinner at
home, it will change the way you feel about it. You
will savor your food and your company with more
Of course, there will be times when you want to eat
your favorite restaurant foods for pleasure and not
worry about it's health factor.
Being flexible about your diet and food choices is
critical to long term success with health and weight
loss. If you are following healthy meal patterns
most of the time, go ahead and treat yourself
(GUILT FREE!) occasionally. Keep your eyes on
your overall wellness plan.
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