Eating at a restaurant can really be tricky if you are trying to watch your weight or maintain a healthy lifestyle but it is entirely possible to visit a restaurant and not feel guilty (or disgusted) about what you just ate.
The best way to approach going to a restaurant when being conscious about food is to plan. If you have a choice in where to go, make things easier from the get go and choose a healthy restaurant. Health.com listed their picks for America’s healthiest restaurants with some of those being Uno Chicago Grill, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Ruby Tuesday, Romano’s Macaroni Grill and Olive Garden.
But you can’t go to Olive Garden and eat the heaviest item on the menu just because it’s described as a healthy restaurant. Do your homework. Most restaurants have a website and post nutritional information. And for restaurants who don’t, it can easily be found somewhere on the internet.
Healthy Dining Finder, Diet Facts, Calorie King and Nutritional Information Services are a few of many websites aimed to help you find nutritional information. If all else fails, just type in the restaurant you want followed by the words “nutritional information” in a Google search.
When you are planning (or when you are squirming in your seat at the restaurant glaring at the menu), avoid anything with the words fried, basted, creamy, batter-dipped, scalloped or breaded.
But you want to know what you do want. An article by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) gives an excellent list of tips for searching through a menu.
The words baked, grilled, dry-sautéed, broiled, poached and steamed are key descriptors for what you want in an entree.
If you have pasta on the brain, while it probably isn’t the healthiest option, chose whole grains and a tomato-based sauce over a cream-based one. Also, cream-based soups are another item you have to avoid and NRA recommends a broth based soup instead.
When ordering a salad, you can order the healthiest looking salad on the menu then ruin everything with the dressing and toppings.
Avoid Iceberg lettuce and excessive amounts of croutons, bacon and cheese. Keep your choices for dressing to oils, vinegars and low-fat (but be cautious with low-fat dressings because just because it says its low-fat doesn’t mean it’s the healthiest. This is where doing your homework ahead of time can be very helpful). But what you can overload on for your salad is veggies!
NRA also gives suggestions for fish and meat. Choose fish with the key descriptor words above and choose leaner meats such as skinless chicken breasts, turkey burgers, pork loin and beef sirloin.
When at the restaurant, keep in mind your waiter or waitress is there to serve you so don’t be afraid to customize your order or to ask questions. They can help you whether it’s having them point out better options or asking if they have a list of healthier menu items. When customizing your order, if you do not see an option with those key descriptors, then customize your order.
Instead of having a heavier side dish, go for the steamed vegetables (or something healthier). Sometimes there’s an additional cost to swap a side, but depending on where you go it usually isn’t that much. If it means that much to you to keep on track, the additional $1.49 charge could really be worth it.
For a few other things, eat something small or drink a full glass of water before you leave or before your order arrives. This will make you less hungry and can help with over-eating.
Also, don’t feel like you have to eat everything on your plate. Many places serve double the portion size you should be eating. Sounds easier said than done to opt for taking half home and this is where having something small or drinking a glass of water before could really help so you aren’t starving. Eating slowly will also help you feel full and makes it easier for your body to digest the food.
Now you’re ready to face eating out worry free. Here are a few additional websites to help you: