With the vast number of fast food companies who spend millions of dollars to produce luscious looking food commercials, it’s tempting to indulge in dining out. One may wonder if they can still eat out while living or starting the journey to a health conscious lifestyle? While I completely agree that the healthiest meals can be enjoyed at home, we all can benefit from dining out occasionally. Plus, discovering refreshing new places away from home will add a new spark to your usual routine!
Here are 7 tips for dining out while living a healthy lifestyle.
- Reward Yourself!
If you have been strictly sticking to your healthy eating and exercise regimen, following your meal planning to a T, and successfully accomplishing your goals, go out and treat yourself! Make it an occasion and don’t just run to McDonald’s or Taco Bell.
Instead, treat yourself to a sit-down restaurant and invite family and friends along to celebrate with you. Engage in pleasant conversation! You will eat slower and feel fuller faster!
- Split Your Meal!
Ask for a to-go box before your food comes to the table so you can split it in half and box it up before you even take a bite. This way, you eat exactly half and have lunch for tomorrow! Or, when dining with a friend, get a larger meal and split it between the two of you!
- Substitute It!
As a former server, substitutions for foods can become annoying. Make sure you tell your server that you are trying to eat healthier and thank them for taking extra time to oblige your requests. They want to provide you with what you want, and you want to receive the best, so be courteous! Don’t hesitate to show thanks your servers for their service in the monetary form. Many servers depend on tips.
For Mexican food, substitute beef, pork or chicken for beans, rice or quinoa. Fresh fish is also a healthier substitute in seafood entrées. Get your tacos with light or no cheese, no sour cream and add extra tomatoes or sliced avocados. You may also choose beans and rice for a side or a fresh salad, choose a light vinaigrette on the side. When you ask for dressing on the side you can control the amount you want or you may decide you don’t need it at all. Get a small basket of chips and add salsa or guacamole. Instead of a fried taco, get a hard or soft shell. The best option is to go to an authentic eatery where they make their own, as many Mexican restaurant use lard to make their wraps. If in doubt, Ask!
For breakfast establishments, don’t upgrade to cheesy eggs or cheese on your hash browns. Opt for egg whites instead of yolk if you have eggs. Choose a multigrain pancake or dry wheat toast instead of buttermilk pancakes or buttered white toast. Watch the amount of creamers or sugar you put in your coffee or bring your own creamer/raw sugar from home if you can’t live without it. All natural sugars and vegan creamers are sold in specialty stores. Also see if they offer fresh fruit.
When ordering a burger, try out the house veggie burger if it is available, or choose turkey bacon or turkey/chicken sausage over pork sausage. When a bread basket is suggested, only order one couple if at all or eat a fresh salad instead. Choose a whole wheat pasta with a tomato base, not cream based sauce. Order a vegetarian, chicken or seafood dish instead of beef or pork. Ask for grilled chicken or shrimp instead of fried.
- Eat vegetarian!
If you are consuming processed or unprocessed red meat at home, try eating vegetarian when you go out, if you eat meat and are trying to decrease meat consumption.
There are almost always vegetarian options even at America’s most loved fast food joints. Burger King offers a veggie burger, you can order a veggie sub at Subway or Mr. Goodcents, and get all your favorite tex-mex food with beans instead of beef at Taco Bell!
- Walk or Bike!
When it is a beautiful evening and you are going out to eat, try walking or biking to a local restaurant! You will work up an appetite by burning calories on the way to eat, and burn them off afterwards. When you know you have to walk after eating, you won’t fill yourself up as much! Just make sure you can carry leftovers home if you have any!
- Drink H2O, Not Soda
Order water when you dine out. You can ask for lemon, lime, or other fruit slices to spice up your water and it doesn’t hurt to clean your silverware with a few lemon slices! You can also ask for soda water (carbonated water) and add lemon and lime juice as well. Soda also has tons of added sugar which tricks your stomach into feeling less full. To enjoy your meal better and only eat what you need, refrain from drinking soda with your meal. Not only is this healthier for you, it will also save you some cash!
- Just Say No to Dessert
Instead of ordering a sugary dessert, try some fresh fruit. Even better, wait until you get home and indulge in some yogurt or even frozen yogurt with fresh fruit, nuts, dried fruit, or any other healthy toppings!