Aug 20, 2012

Healthy Eating Tips For Dining Out

Birthdays. Bridal luncheons. Holiday parties. Work events.

It’s inevitable that we eat out. There’s just no avoiding it. Instead of fearing the extra calorie binge that we so often endure while dining out, why not prepare ourselves ahead of time? Eating out doesn’t have to be a diet disaster. With these easy tips, you can feel a bit more comfortable dining out…and in your jeans.

1. Do not starve yourself all day to “make up” for what you will be eating later. This is not a smart idea. Starving yourself throughout the day sends your metabolism crashing. By the time you get to dinner, you'll be so hungry that you’ll gorge yourself with too much food in one sitting. You’re better off eating as you normally would all day long.

2. Order water first. Though most nicer restaurants automatically give you a glass of water, some may assume you just want an alcoholic beverage. Ask for a glass of water and drink up. We often mistake thirst for hunger, so having a glass before dinner will not only hydrate you, but prevent you from eating an unnecessary amount of food. And remember, water does amazing things for your hair, skin, nails, and mood!

3. Skip the sugar bomb beverages. Say no to the fancy margaritas, cocktails, and mixed drinks. You are not on Sex & The City – put down that Cosmopolitan. Choose a light beer, glass of wine, or even a vodka soda with fresh fruit. The simple syrup in those mixed drinks is only going to tip the scales or send you straight to the dentist for a filling. Not worth it!

4. Skip the bread. I’ll be honest – if you stick a loaf of freshly-baked, warm bread in front of me, chances are (99%) I will eat it. But do I need it? No. Does it do much for me nutritionally speaking? Ha, barely. The bread basket is an empty basket. An empty basket of calories. Don’t do it! If you’re comfortable with it, you can even ask the server to not bring it out so there’s no temptation.

5. Ask for condiments and/or dressings on the side. It seems that chefs really want you to know how good their sauces are, and to do that, they load your dish up with it. Have you ever noticed that your deli sandwich has much more mayonnaise on it than you would have applied at home? Or that your salad is often sopping wet with an oil-based dressing? By asking for it the side, you can apply only what you need or dip your food into it. I assure you that you will use much less.

6. Choose a main dish that has a lot of vegetables. If possible, go for steamed, grilled, or roasted vegetables rather than sautéed or deep-fried.

7. Once your entrée arrives, split it into two portions. If it’s not a dish that you can easily separate into two, make a mental note of how much is on your plate and try to only eat half. You’ll most likely end up being satisfied once you’re finished, and (bonus!) you have leftovers for the next day. You’re saving money and saving calories.

8. Sharing is caring. A girlfriend of mine and I  often have trouble resisting ordering an appetizer ahead of our entrees. A win-win solution is to order one appetizer and one entrée and split them both. It costs less, you save calories, and you get to try more than one dish.

9. Think about dessert. Think about it really hard. Yes, I know, the options probably sound amazing given the way your server read them to you. I bet you even saw a twinkle in her eye when she told you about the warm bread pudding with a side of vanilla bean ice cream. You might have even drooled. But do you need it? Is it worth it? That’s up to you. As a huge proponent of eating dessert (I eat healthy during the week, why not?), I know this is a tough decision. Should your answer be “Yes, I really need dessert,” go for it. I’m not going to judge you. Go for the fruit-based desserts if you can. Sorbet is a great option as it is lower in calories and sugar.

10. Don’t feel guilty after your meal. I bet you had a great time with friends and enjoyed yourself. Tomorrow is a new day and you can jump right back on the healthy eating train just in time for breakfast! Grab a container of low-fat Greek yogurt, a piece of fresh fruit, and start your day right.

Which of these do you follow?

What are YOUR tips?