People enjoy dining out these days instead of staying home and cooking a meal. While eating at restaurants, it’s less likely that we won’t make a healthy choice and there is less of an inclination to eat healthy. Americans dine out on average of four times a week, according to the National Restaurant Association. And as we eat out more and more, the percentage of obese people increases, while their wallets decrease.
Regardless of where you eat out, you must be surprised to see just how high the calorie counts on some restaurant meals are. Unrestrained, this type of dining out is the perfect recipe for obesity and disease down the road.
So what’s the answer? Eat only steamed veggies? Refuse to dine out? On the contrary. You can learn to navigate any menu, make a healthy choice and eat healthy. These days, more restaurants than ever offer low-fat, low-cal menu items, making it easy to enjoy a delicious, nutritious dining experience, if you know what to ask for. Let me offer some tips that will help you make a healthy choice while dining out:
Dining Out Tip #1: Sit in a Quiet Spot
People who sit in the more distracting parts of restaurants, such as by a window or in front of a TV, eat considerably more. Commotion makes it easy to lose track of how much you’re putting in your mouth. If you’re making a reservation, request a quiet table. If you walk in and are offered a table in a busier spot, ask for one away from the action. It’s worth the wait.
Dining Out Tip #2: Be the First to Order
You’ve decided to pick something light off the menu, but when your friend orders the decadent steak frits, you start to rethink your boring grilled salmon. To ensure that you eat healthy and sidestep the temptation of your friend’s less healthy dish, place your order first. If you can’t order first, then make your decision, close the menu, and repeat your selection to yourself to help you stick to it. If you’re dining out at a restaurant you visit often, just ask for your favorite healthy option without ever opening the menu.
Dining Out Tip #3: Don’t be Seduced by Menu Descriptions
Mouth-watering descriptions like “tender, juicy chicken breast” or “ripe heirloom tomatoes” are increasingly common on restaurant menus. Be extra aware of sensory terms like “velvety” mousse and nostalgic ones like “legendary” spaghetti and meatballs. Research shows that words that promote taste and texture influence the way you think the food tastes. Words like these prep your taste buds to expect your chicken to taste juicy, so to some degree it probably will.
Dining Out Tip #4: Stay Away from Snacking
The most damage often occurs before the actual meal begins: Appetizer trays are loaded with fat. Besides that, they take away your appetite for the healthiest foods to come. Avoid them. Even the freebies like chips and salsa at Mexican restaurants, a basket of rolls and butter at other establishment can pile up fat and calories that you don’t need. If you can’t exercise control to eat healthy while dining out, have your server remove the temptation that’s sitting your table.
Dining Out Tip #5: Make a Meal out of Appetizers
Certain appetizers, however, can be excellent choices for an entrée. The portion size of appetizers is often more appropriate than the extremely large portions provided in entrees. Make a healthy choice, such as steamed seafood, salads that aren’t loaded with high-fat ingredients, grilled vegetables and broth-based soups.
Eat healthy but leave room to be flexible when you’re dining out. Eating is an integral–and fun–part of life, and life can be unpredictable. An unexpected change in your daily eating plan isn’t the end of the world. In fact, you can enjoy dining out even more if you remember that it’s your total diet that count, not individual meals.