By Deborah Jones
People are eating out more and more often these days with our busy lifestyles and out of convenience. Going out to eat does not mean it’s time to cave in to decadent cravings and set aside the practice of healthful living. Instead, try some of these tricks to help make better choices when going out to eat:
1. Before you decide what to order, have a glass of water. Water will temporarily curb your hunger by filling up your stomach so that you can make a better decision when ordering. Also, water is necessary for the digestive process and will help activate your metabolism once you start to eat.
2. Order a salad with the dressing on the side. Most restaurant chefs use fatty ingredients like oils or creams in salad dressings. Allowing the restaurant to add the dressing themselves tends to drench the leaves so that each bite is smothered and this can add a significant number of calories to a meal that otherwise would contain very few calories. Some salad dressings contain up to 600 kcals/serving, so reducing the dressing amount by half could lead to saving 300 kcals on your meal. Ordering the dressing on the side allows you to control the amount of fat, and therefore the amount of calories, on your salad. You can either dip each bite into the dressing as you eat or you can add a small amount of dressing on your own. The key here is portion control. If you want to skip the excess altogether, ask for a dish of fresh lemon, lime, or orange, and squeeze it over your salad with some salt and pepper.
3. Sharing is caring. Try ordering a dish to split with your dinner partner and look at it as a great way to bond over your meal. Generally portion sizes at restaurants are well over the necessary amount for a single person, so pick something you can both enjoy and dig in.
4. Ask about their preparation methods. Don’t be shy, this is your health we’re talking about! Sometimes dishes show up fried or with a high calorie sauce you weren’t expecting. If a dish is fried in oil or bathed in butter, try rethinking your decision and ask about dishes that may be grilled, broiled, or steamed. Be sure to ask plenty of questions to try to avoid any surprises.
5. Last, don’t underestimate the veggies! Any dish you order could be amped up to a healthier status with a side of fresh or steamed veggies. Ask about seasonal varieties available, or chef’s specials. Most of the time restaurants have plenty of vegetables on hand, and asking to double the side dish portion costs little to no extra. Also, try eating the vegetables first before you eat the less healthful items on the plate. A lot of times you’ll realize that eating the veggies will fill you up and then you can take the rest home to eat later – it’s a win-win situation!
Making these simple changes can help reduce your calorie intake significantly when dining out, especially if you eat out often.