Eating out occasionally is inevitable. Whether it’s a family celebration, a work meeting, a friend’s reunion, or a date night out, you are bound to be faced with dining out sooner or later. At home, you are in control of your meals. You know exactly what ingredients end up on your plate, and how much to eat to keep on track. However, when you’re faced with a restaurant menu, it can be difficult to have the same level of control. How can you stay on track of your health goals, without having to munch on a salad every time you head out to eat?
Fear not, my friend! We’re going to prepare you for those dine-out days, with incredibly easy diet hacks and tips to help you stay on target. Remember, it’s all about being prepared and informed.
Hack #1: Have your say!
This is assuming your group of friends have not picked a restaurant yet! If you are all deciding on where to eat, make an input. Rather than going to a fast food outlet, choose a neutral spot with a well-rounded menu. Feeling like splurging? Dine in style in a steakhouse for a wonderful source of high-quality protein and veggies.
Hack #2: Research the menu
So, your family picked a local Italian restaurant for your brother’s birthday. Immediately pull up the menu for the restaurant online, and review all your options beforehand. That way, you will know exactly what you are getting before setting foot in the restaurant. Order first, so other’s choices do not influence yours. Yes, a full-sized pepperoni pizza sounds tempting, but you’ll be proud of yourself for sticking to your healthier choice.
Hack #3: Ask for a take-away box
Even better, ask your server for half the meal to be packed away in a box, and half to be brought out to you. This is an extremely simple way of portioning your food, without having the temptation of digging into the other side of the plate that you said you’d save for tomorrow.
Hack #4: Watch out for keywords
Words can say a lot about the nutritional value of a dish. Read the descriptions of each dish carefully. Words like saucy, creamy, crispy, crunchy, battered, creamed, stuffed and tempura are ones to look out for. These red flags indicate that the dish is high in fat/carbohydrates/unnecessary calories that you can easily avoid. Instead, opt for baked, grilled, poached, broiled, and roasted.
Hack #5: Drinks add up
Sure, that cold glass of soda looks so thirst-quenching. However, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages are filled with sugar, providing you with nothing but empty calories. Always opt for water instead, and you can save up to 300 calories at dinner!
Hack #6: Substitute!
This ties back to hack #2! Always choose your meal wisely. Take your time and figure out exactly what you want to see on your plate. If your aim is to lose weight, ditch the starchy/carb-loaded foods, and switch it up with some grilled/steamed veggies to slash the calories in half! Always check what sides come with your entrée, and ask your server about alternatives that you can get. For example, if your entrée comes with a side of French fries and garlic bread, substitute one of the sides for a healthier option, such as steamed broccoli or sautéed peppers. If in doubt, always ask your server!
Hack #7: Dressing on the side
Did you know that most sauces and dressings are overflowing with fat and calories? It’s usually the dressing that bumps up the calorie count of that delicious Caesar salad, or the hollandaise sauce that ramps up the fat of your eggs Benedict at brunch. Always ask for your dressing/sauce on the side. That way, you can control exactly how much sauce you want to eat. You’ll often find that you don’t need to use the whole sauce bowl to enjoy your dish! A little goes a long way.
Hack #8: Order an appetizer
Not feeling super hungry? Don’t feel pressured to order a full entrée if your stomach isn’t up for it! Order a kid’s size portion, or an appetizer instead! You still get to enjoy some food with your loved ones, without having to suffer from a food coma after a full-sized entrée!
So, there you have it! Use these tips and tricks the next time you go out for a meal, and you’ll remain on the right track to achieving your health goals. Remember, we’re only human. If you head out to eat and end up guzzling a chocolate dessert after your entrée, or snack on lots of bread while you wait, it’s not the end of the world. It’s all about recognizing and being aware of what you are eating and bouncing back immediately after indulging.
‘One ‘bad’ meal won’t make you fat, just like one ‘good’ meal won’t make you lean!’