Written by: Claudia Haller NBC-HWC
Eating out is something we all do from time to time. It could be an occasional dinner with friends, a lunch break during work hours, or grabbing a quick bite while running errands. While trying out new restaurants and cuisines is enjoyable, it can be challenging or confusing to make wise and healthy choices when dining out.
Achieving our health goals seems ideal when we are in control of what we eat and when, but this lifestyle is not fun and simply not sustainable. It is important to learn to be adaptable to new environments and prioritize your health goals in any conditions. Eating out can certainly cause anxiety. The abundance of high-calorie foods, oversized portions, and a lack of nutritional information can make it challenging to make wise decisions. However, with some careful planning and a little knowledge, it is possible to enjoy eating out while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Here are some tips on making smart and healthy choices when eating out:
Plan ahead: If you’re anything like me, you actually enjoy meal planning and prepping. The best way to apply this behavior when you’re going out is to research the restaurant's menu ahead of time. You don’t necessarily need to decide exactly what you’ll want at that moment, but it may ease your anxieties to browse the selections ahead of time. If you do not see any healthy and appetizing options, make a note of any dishes that can be modified to suit your dietary needs.
Be mindful of portion sizes: Most restaurants serve large portions, which can be overwhelming. Dining out is often associated with higher intake of calories due to large portions and mass production. That being said, don’t be afraid to order exactly what you want. What if I told you that you do not have to clear your plate and you don’t have to waste large amounts of food either? Instead, consider splitting a dish with a friend or taking leftovers home for another meal.
Choose lean protein: Whether it’s atop a salad or the feature of a main dish, protein options provide a golden opportunity for you to prioritize your health goals. When given the option, choose lean protein sources such as grilled chicken, fish, or tofu. Avoid fried or breaded options, which are unnecessarily high in unhealthy fats.
Load up on veggies: Another great opportunity to make your meal more nutrient-dense is to choose a dish that is loaded with vegetables. If this option does not present itself on the menu, you can always ask to substitute one of the existing sides for veggies. Meals with a lot of veggies are an excellent choice for those looking to maintain a healthy diet.
Watch out for hidden calories: Some menu items such as salad dressings, sauces, and condiments, can be shockingly high in calories and unhealthy fats. Wouldn’t it be a shame if you thought that you were making the healthy choice by picking a salad only to find that your dish would be drenched in a calorie dense dressing? If possible, ask for condiments on the side so that you can use them sparingly.
Avoid sugary drinks: Extra calories don’t just make their way into your meal through what you eat, they also sneak their way into what you drink. Beverages such as soda, sweetened tea, and fruit juices are not only high in calories, but also high in sugar. When it comes to beverages, your best bet is to opt for water, unsweetened tea, or sparkling water.
Don't skip meals: Skipping meals to save calories for a big dinner out is never a good idea. This strategy ultimately brings you into caloric deficit which can lead to overeating and poor food choices. Hanger is real, and it does not make for a pleasant dining experience for anyone! Instead of saving up room for a big meal out, have a light, healthy snack before heading out to curb your hunger.
Practice mindful eating: That being said, if you don’t show up to your meal starving, you can actually take your time eating and enjoy each bite. Chew slowly, savor the flavors, and stop eating when you’re satisfied. Mindful eating allows you to appreciate the way that food serves as fuel for your body.
Don't be afraid to ask for modifications: Most restaurants are more than willing to accommodate dietary needs and preferences. Don't be afraid to ask for modifications, such as substituting sides or requesting grilled instead of fried options. You owe it to yourself to prioritize your health goals even when it feels uncomfortable.
With a little bit of preparation and planning, making smart and healthy choices when eating out is possible. By choosing lean protein, loading up on veggies, and being mindful of portion sizes, you can eliminate your anxieties about setbacks in your health journey when getting a meal out. Bringing these tips with you on the go will allow you to truly enjoy a delicious meal out while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Claudia is an NBC-HWC Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach, the owner of Vibrant Health by Claudia LLC and Virtual Health Coaches LLC. She studied health and wellness coaching at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition where she also completed courses in Gut Health, Hormone Health, and Advanced Coaching. She is a certified 21-Day Sugar Detox Coach as well as a co-author of two Amazon Bestsellers “The Ultimate Guide to creating your soul aligned Business” and “The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a successful soul professional”.
To schedule a time for a free information call click here or join her Vibrant Health Power Community - a free Facebook Group - here.
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