Due to increasing numbers of people coming down with illnesses caused by sedentary lifestyles and changing environmental conditions, many people today have made the decision to lead much healthier lives by becoming more mindful of what they eat.
If you are one such individual, you might be thinking about skipping eating out altogether from now on because you’re convinced that there is nothing healthy about the food that restaurants serve.
This isn’t true at all!
Staying home and cooking your own meals based on healthy recipes is definitely wise, but this is not your only option. You can still dine out with your family and friends and enjoy your meal.
Just follow these six tips for healthy dining out:
1.Study the restaurant’s menu in advance
You don’t have to personally visit a restaurant ahead of schedule just to check out their menu. You have the option to check menus online.
Read the descriptions carefully and mentally steer clear of dishes with words like breaded, crisp, creaming, stuffed, and sauced. Such dishes would be loaded with hidden fats. Instead, go for dishes that are grilled, broiled, baked, and sautéed.
By checking menus online beforehand, you will immediately identify if a dining establishment offers healthy fare, and you can have enough time to make well-informed and healthy choices.
2. Keep the pre-meal carbohydrates at bay
In many restaurants, servers provide each table with a complimentary basket of bread or chips that customers can dig into while they wait for their orders to arrive.
What should you do? Thank your server, and then politely refuse these. Skipping the pre-meal starch is a good step to take if you are watching what you eat. It’s easy to overeat because the basket can be refilled.
The best trick to prevent you from diving into chips and bread is to eat a small but healthy snack before heading out. This will help curb cravings or the desire to mindlessly munch on something while you wait.
3. Opt for simple dishes
The simpler the meal you choose, the healthier it will be. For instance, a dish with a grilled or roasted protein, like fish or a steak, with no additional breading or sauces, is considered a better option because it does not contain added salt, grease or sugars that are typically present in sauces.
As another example, when choosing between salad dressings like Caesar and olive oil with vinegar, choose the latter. Keep in mind that creamy salad dressings contain lots of sugar, trans fat, and bad oils.
4. Observe portion control
Being mindful of portion control can be tricky since dining establishments often offer bigger servings. So be cautious!
For proteins, as a rule of thumb, a single serving is about the size of your palm. For mixed foods like burritos and lasagna, consider setting aside half of the food you are served and requesting to have it placed it in a takeaway box.
5. Ask questions
You might feel reluctant to draw the attention of a server or chef at a restaurant to your concerns because it might be misinterpreted as making an unnecessary fuss. However, if you are determined to live a healthy life, it’s best to make asking questions about the menu items a habit.
For example, you can inquire about what kind of oil the restaurant uses to cook their dishes. Pay attention to the dishes that are prepared using grass-fed butter or coconut oil, which are reasonably healthier options compared to canola oil or olive oil.
If your meal comes with grains or fried potatoes or cheeses, ask for a healthier side substitute like a salad or steamed vegetables.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to mention if you have food restrictions. Check if requests for simple ingredient replacements can be accommodated.
6. Never plan to make up for an unhealthy meal later
It’s not good to get into the habit of indulging in unhealthy meals and then promising to yourself that you’ll squeeze in an extra workout and eat a smaller meal later on.
This won’t be effective if you fail to follow through on making up for the unhealthy meal, so nip this practice in the bud.
Following a healthy diet does not mean you should miss out on every family dinner, corporate lunch, or catch-up drinks with friends. It is true that the moment you step into a restaurant, the temptation to follow all the heavenly smells is there.
But if you are committed to leading a healthy lifestyle, you can follow these tips and find the best ways to enjoy eating out even while making better choices.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jenene Bronwin Batts is the Senior Marketing Coordinator at Tourism Development & Investment Company or TDIC. She oversees website maintenance, PR requests, marketing initiatives and all general guests’ enquiries for the company’s destinations, including KOI Restaurant & Lounge and Boa Steakhouse in Abu Dhabi.