Do you find yourself overeating when you go out, or choosing foods you know won’t agree with you or help you reach your goals? Most of us do!
When we shop for and prepare foods at home, we have control. We can choose to only buy what we want to have available and make adjustments to our cooking to suit. We can also serve ourselves and ensure portions are appropriate to our needs.
However, when we dining out, that all changes!
The menu is full of delicious offerings, portions are often massive and extra side dishes are irresistible. Let’s not mention peer pressure from our meal companions, additional liquid calories and the extra temptation offered via food envy!
While these things are all part of the joy of eating out, a little bit of over-enthusiastic hedonism can wind up causing discomfort and guilt – which puts a bit of a downer on the whole experience, to say the least!
How can we stay healthy while eating out, without being the weirdo ordering the salad sans dressing and a glass of sparkling water? Here are some tips to choosing healthy restaurant foods and healthy fast food options so you can enjoy dining out, without the guilt.
Choose your meal with head and stomach
Look for healthy restaurant foods that you will enjoy but can ask for some minor modifications (without being ‘that person’). There is no point ordering the quinoa salad if you really don’t feel like a cold dish! Eating out is supposed to be pleasurable, so don’t punish yourself before you even pay the bill.
If you have a hankering for a steak, for example, go for it but ask them to put the sauce on the side and opt for veggies instead of chips. If fish is on your mind, go for grilled over battered. For the pasta lovers, consider sharing the dish with someone else or ordering an entree-sized meal, then make up the rest of your plate with extra salad or veg.
If your meal comes with fried goodness such as chips or wedges, taking some off your plate before you start can help you avoid the need to keep eating after you are full. Out of sight, out of mind!
There is such a thing as healthy fast food
Sometimes eating out is more eating wherever you are, which may mean fast food or takeaway. Don’t despair, there are ways to choose healthy takeaway, well, healthIER takeaway.
Firstly, aim to avoid or at least limit fried foods. Go for grilled meats over fried and either go without chips or opt for a small serving. Many fast food outlets will automatically give you a large if you don’t specify a size, so be clear in your order. They will also try to upsize you – a polite ‘no thanks’ is a good answer.
Limit sauces, cheese and add-ons that increase energy intake (and do little for your wallet). A slice of cheese adds around 110 calories, just one tablespoon of mayonnaise has 90 calories and a there are around 60 calories in one small slice of bacon!
Eat slowly and mindfully
This tip is not just for eating out, it is something I encourage all of my nutrition clients to do every meal and snack. Take time to enjoy your food, savour the tastes and textures, and tune in to how your body feels as you eat. This can be a hard task sometimes, especially when we are busy at home, but when we are out we have the lovely advantage of being able to sit, be served and not have to race up and tidy the kitchen!
Slowing down while you are out also helping enjoy your company. Stop after each mouthful and listen to what your companions are saying, chat to them about what you have been doing and really take the time to relax and have a fantastic experience.
Watch the liquid calories
Lastly, eating out is not always about the food. As much as I hate to admit it, alcoholic drinks are a surefire way to tip your energy balance the wrong way. A small glass of wine (150ml) contains around 120 calories and a bottle of white wine around 650 calories! Given the average intake for a woman is around 2000 calories per day, a few glasses of wine easily takes up a quarter of the recommended energy intake.
If you are prone to a few drinks regularly – unfortunately either your overall energy intake will be too high (which equals weight gain) or you are replacing valuable nutritional foods with booze (which equals deficiencies and risk of health complications).
What can you do? I would never suggest cutting the drinks completely (that would be rather hypocritical!), especially when out socialising, but moderating your intake is smart. The age-old tricks of alternating drinks with water or a lower calorie option (eg sparkling water or tea), slowing down your sips and pouring your beverage into a smaller glass can help. Whatever you do, just be mindful of your consumption and enjoy a clearer head the next day!
As you can see, there is no reason to forego eating out with friends and family when you are striving to eat healthily. There are lots of ways you can still enjoy the experience without feeling guilty about your choices. A few little changes will make a massive difference to your journey to good health.
There are more great ideas for choosing healthier options when eating away from home on the Eat For Health website. Check it out here: Eating away from home | Eat For Health
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