Planning is Key to Healthy Eating When Dining Out

Dining Out and Healthy Restaurants

When it comes to eating healthy, restaurants have come a long way recently. Consumers are demanding healthier choices and smaller portions. Restaurant chains have responded by altering their menus to reflect how people want to eat today. With today’s busy lifestyles, it’s not realistic to expect to eat at home all the time, so how do you make healthy choices when you go to a restaurant? How do you turn your favorite restaurants into healthy restaurants?

If you think “healthy restaurant” is a contradiction in terms, you’re wrong! It is definitely possible to stick to a healthy eating plan when you go out to eat.  Continue reading to get some suggestions for eating well when you are away from home.

Beware of Large Portions

Restaurant portions are notoriously large, and you need to be aware of this fact. Furthermore, research has shown time and time again that the larger the portion, the more we end up eating.  The good news is that many restaurants will provide a takeout container if a customer wants to take some of his or her meal home. That eliminates any pressure on the diner to finish everything on his or her plate.

Rather than be tempted to overeat at the restaurant, ask for the takeout container at the same time that you order your meal. Plan to eat half of what you have been served at the restaurant and take the other half home. Putting some of the food into the takeout container at the beginning of the meal means that the additional portion is out of sight until the next day or whenever you decide to enjoy it.

Consider the Appetizer Menu

Rather than ordering a dinner that may include an appetizer and a main course, a better (and much healthier choice) is often to select two choices from the appetizer section of the menu as your entree. You can start with a broth-based soup or a small salad and then add another higher-protein item to complete your meal. If you are going to eat salad, ask for the dressing on the side so that you can control the amount you are using. Some restaurants offer lunch portions of their popular entrees that are smaller, and the amount of food offered is more in line with an appropriate individual portion.

Plan Ahead

Many restaurants post menus on their websites (and some chains even provide nutrition information, too!)  If you’re worried about temptation taking over when you sit down to eat, try looking at the menu online before you arrive at the restaurant–and when you’re not hungry– and select what you want to order in advance.  Decide whether you’ll plan to drink alcohol, and if so, how many drinks you want to set as your limit.  Think about whether you’ll plan to order dessert; if so, be sure to select an entree that is more moderate in calories to make room for the sweets… and then be sure to split the dessert with a friend.  Having a plan before you even walk in the door increases the chances you’ll be in control of what you order when decision-time comes.

Ask for What You Want

Most restaurants are happy to accommodate reasonable requests from diners. If you are interested in ordering a particular dinner and it comes with a rich sauce, ask if you can get a small portion of the sauce on the side or if you can get it without any sauce.  Can they grill your chicken or steam your fish instead of pan frying it?  As long as you ask politely, you have a good chance of being served a healthier option.

You are not alone in your goal of trying to eat healthy. Restaurants need to keep diners coming in to stay in business, and more and more of them are offering healthy options as part of their menu choices. By considering all of your options when you look at the menu and using some creativity, you can stick to your goal of eating well when you are away from home.

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