Restaurants may be intimidating to people trying to stick to a healthy eating plan, but with preparation and confidence you can enjoy your restaurant meal without abandoning healthy eating.
Consider meal options at different restaurants and look for places with a wide range of menu items. Use review sites like Yelp or Trip Advisor to search for restaurants. Use keywords like “paleo”, “farm to table”, “gluten free” or “grass-fed.” Check online menus, read it before you get to the restaurant. Choosing your food before you arrive makes it easier to avoid snap decisions you might regret later.
Be as deliberate as you can when ordering, starting right when you are seated. Tell the waiter about your food restrictions or sensitivities and that you would appreciate their help in making substitutions. Most of the time, they’ll make immediate recommendations and let the chef know your sensitivity.
Choose baked or grilled over breaded or fried. (Breading is generally made with grain flour and then fried in industrial vegetable or seed oils.) If you’re having a salad, ask for olive oil and vinegar on the side instead of salad dressing. Better yet, bring your own salad dressing from home in your purse.
If you’re ordering sandwiches or burgers ask them to hold the bun and/or substitute with lettuce. Look at the side dishes on the menu. You can create a very filling meal from a couple of sides like, steamed veggies, baked sweet potato, and grilled fish, chicken, or steak. Order the main dish and substitute sides or bread with extra veggies or a side salad.
With all of the drink choices available at restaurants, it may be tempting to order something other than water to drink. Avoid the temptation by asking for water with a lemon right when you sit down and just sip on it until your meal comes. Your body sends the same signal for thirst as it does for hunger so hydrating before a meal can help you eat less. Limit drinking water during your meal to allow your stomach acids to be at full strength to aid in digesting your food after the meal.
If your meal comes with fries, ask for a side salad instead. If your meal comes with baked potato see if they offer a sweet potato or substitute for some steamed veggies. Many restaurants honor requests, so don’t be afraid to be assertive, ask menu questions and make special requests to meet your nutritional needs.
Many restaurants serve huge portions, sometimes enough for at least two people. Eat a smaller portion and bring leftovers home for another meal. Share one entrée with someone else or order an appetizer in place of an entrée and add a small salad.
If you have other tips to make eating healthy while eating out we would love to have you share them.