Eating out for just two meals a week can pack on 1 pound of body fat! Curious as to why? Studies show that the food we typically eat at a restaurant is nutritionally worse than the food we eat at home. In addition to the lousy nutritional quality of most restaurant meals, their distorted portions (as you can see in the photos below) cause us to eat a lot more than we would at home too!
So without even giving it a thought, research shows that people will eat healthier (and less) at home than they will at a restaurant. With that being said I don’t expect everyone to become hermit crabs and eat at home for every meal. But for the sake of your health I encourage you to limit how OFTEN you go out to eat- and when you do choose to dine out, consider these tips in order to make the healthiest choices possible:
1. READ THE MENU BEFORE YOU GO
Most Restaurants have their menus (as well as nutritional information) posted online. Research the menu before you go out to eat to look for healthy, low calorie options. If you can’t find any, choose a different restaurant.
2. SKIP THE BREAD BASKET
The average piece of bread is about 100 calories and each pat of butter will add another 36 calories to that. When you sit down hungry, it is very easy to consume an entire meal’s worth of calories before any food even hits the table. Limit yourself to one piece or skip the bread altogether. Try distracting yourself by drinking water or chewing gum while waiting for your food to arrive.
3. STICK TO LOW CALORIE DRINKS
Some beverages can contain more calories than an entire meal- with no nutritional value or satiety to offer for it! Avoid high calorie cocktails and sweetened beverages like sodas and lemonades. Stick to water, seltzer water with lemon or lime, unsweetened tea or coffee when dining out. If you’re reaching for alcohol, wine, light beer or mixed drinks made with seltzer water tend to be lower calorie options.
4. START WITH A SALAD
A standard side salad will provide you with one serving of vegetables. Its high fiber and water content will also help you feel satisfied sooner and therefore eat a smaller quantity of food and fewer calories overall.
5. SHARE YOUR MEAL OR SAVE SOME FOR LATER
Most restaurant portions are huge. It’s not uncommon for one meal at a restaurant to provide a full days worth of calories. Choose a small portion when possible. Otherwise share a meal with a friend or eat half and box the other half to take home for later.
6. SWAP SIDES
Choose a side salad, fresh fruit or steamed vegetables instead of fries, chips or onion rings to accompany your meal.
7. MAKE MODIFICATIONS
- Ask for sauces and salad dressings on the side- then you can dip or skip and use less.
- Replace regular salad dressings with olive oil and vinegar.
- Add extra vegetables to an entree.
- Ask for grilled chicken instead of breaded or fried.
- Omit or go easy on high calorie ingredients like creamy sauces, gravies and cheese.
- Order your dish “dry” without any added butter or oil – or ask them to go easy on it.
- Ask for whole wheat bread for sandwiches.
- Substitute bread or wraps with large leaf lettuce.
- Order a burger “protein style” -with no bun.
- Ask for less sugar in your cocktail.
8. PICK HEALTHY PREPARATION METHODS
The WAY foods are prepared says a lot about them nutritionally. When reading the menu, avoid words like deep fried, pan-fried, crispy, tempura, sautéed, au gratin, buttered, creamed and breaded as these tend to indicate high calorie preparation methods. Instead choose menu items described using words like steamed, grilled, broiled, baked, poached or roasted as these tend to be healthier.
9. EAT SLOWLY
Take your time and enjoy yourself. Eating slowly will help you enjoy your food more and prevent overeating.
10. SKIP DESSERT
Skipping dessert can shave off a tremendous amount of calories from your meal. If you’re someone who needs to finish a meal with something sweet, choose fruit or sorbet or share something small with a friend. You can also pack yourself a chocolate square or a small piece of candy from home to satisfy your sweet tooth after a meal.