You walk into a restaurant and sit at the table. Your senses are stimulated: you smell wonderful aromas, hear sizzling platters, see beautiful foods and samples of desserts. Danger signs of losing control abound. Your goal: to enjoy your food and the eating out experience, yet to stay smart and make good healthy choices.
Guide For Healthy Restaurant Eating:
- Ask for a glass of water right away. This gives your hands and mouth something to do while you await your next step.
- Watch the adjectives. Cream/creamed, alfredo, crispy, fried, buttered, smothered, and cheesy will be higher in fat and calories. Steamed, broiled, low fat, and light can indicate healthier options, but sometimes added fats are still used. To be sure, if you don't want butter or oil on your broiled salmon, be sure to tell your server.
- Order first. You planned ahead, so get your order in as soon as you can! Don't allow time to be swayed by other people's less healthy choices.
- Ask for a To-Go container to be delivered with your meal. Then, divide your meal in half before you start eating, pop it in the box, and set it aside to take home for tomorrow's lunch. This reduces overeating just because it was there.
- Split an entree with a friend or family member---a great way to save money, calories, sodium and fat. Be sure to each order your own salad and/or veggies to maximize nutrition.
- Select one serving (or opt out if you don't want any) from the bread/chip basket. Then, put your selection on your plate. Place the basket out of arms reach, if possible, or have the server remove it. Nothing spells danger quite like a refillable chip basket that everyone is munching from. When you eat from your own plate, you are allowing for a more mindful approach to eating.
- Order dressings and sauces on the side, so you can control how much you use. Many people love the "fork-dip-technique," dipping the fork into the dressing first, then using that fork to pick up a bite of lettuce. A little flavor, far fewer calories. This works wonders for me with the real blue cheese dressing I love to have occasionally.
- Go easy on the alcohol and soda. The more alcohol you consume, the less you'll care about what you eat, so most people end up eating more. If you are going to drink, alternate alcohol with water to help you stay hydrated, focused and save calories. The calories in alcohol and soda add up very quickly. Beer and soda have 100 calories per cup, and most restaurants serve much bigger glasses than that. Light beer, small glass of wine, or liquor with low-calorie mixers will give you lower calorie alcohol options.
- Dessert? Enjoy it when you plan on having it. Look for ways to get smaller portions: sharing one dessert with several people, a kid-size sundae, or one of the new mini desserts. Remember: The first bite tastes the same as the last! I often order a non-fat latte at the end of the meal if others are really indulging. It's something I love, warm, and special, that I can wrap both hands around (helps keep them out of the dessert ) and still be part of the group!