1. Prepare. Allow for wiggle room in your diet, and if you know that you will be eating out for dinner, have a lighter lunch and breakfast. However, do not skip meals as you will probably arrive at dinner starving and forget about your healthy plan.
2. Do your research. If the restaurant has a menu online, look it up and plan what you are going to order. By researching and planning your meal, you will eliminate the pitfalls of ordering while hungry and rushed.
3. Apply general healthy eating principles. If you are trying to eat healthier, you are probably including lots of fresh produce, lean proteins and avoiding heavy sauces and sides. You can use the same principles when dining out- look for options that are vegetable heavy, but well balanced so you feel full.
4. Substitute. Most restaurants are happy to honor dietary requests, and will substitute a salad for fries or put dressing on the side. Ask questions and do not be afraid to make reasonable requests.
5. Portion control. A major pitfall of dining out is simply huge portion sizes. Restaurants often serve twice or three times the amount of food you would serve at home. A good rule of thumb is to save half of your meal as leftovers. If you know it will be hard to resist eating, you can ask your server to box up half of your meal before bringing it to the table.
6. Eat slowly. It takes your brain 20 minutes to receive the message that you are full, so eating slowly will help you to realize when you are actually satisfied. If you are starving when you arrive at the restaurant, order a healthy appetizer like a side salad or a vegetable soup so that you will not be as hungry when your main course arrives.
7. Eating out with kids. If you are eating out with young children, pick a restaurant that either has a kid’s menu or lots of healthy options. Let kids order a familiar favorite and allow them to sample your order to experience new, healthy foods.
Keep these tips in mind when dining out, and also try to enjoy your special meal out. If you are eating healthy 80 percent of the time, little allowances will not affect your overall health. Being healthy is more than fitting into a pair of pants, and any sustainable diet allows a social life.
Come work with our Pediatric Dietitian, Andrea Berez!!
Andrea Berez MS, RD, CSP
Kara Unal JD, RYT