Dining out is a treat many people enjoy one or more times a week, especially now that more restaurants are open again. While restaurants offer the opportunity to enjoy many delicious foods, dining out often translates into meals with huge portions and ingredients that may not always align with personal diets.
Since restaurants do not have standard serving guidelines for serving size, diners must rely on asking servers what is in the foods and seeing if nutritional information, including calorie counts, are offered on menus. However, being on a diet doesn’t mean you have to give up on your social life. Learning to navigate restaurant menus and following some tips can help people stay healthy while dining out.
Check the menu online. If you are unfamiliar with a restaurant, look online to preview its menu before arriving. Doing so will allow you more time to scour the menu and make healthy choices before you get there.
Cut out calorie-heavy beverages. Why drink your calories when you can reserve them for tasty foods? Sodas, sweetened iced teas, and alcoholic beverages contain calories that can quickly add up. Choose calorie-free beverages, such as unsweetened iced tea or plain water.
Limit salt, if possible. Avoid foods that are prepared with extra salt, such as those that are smoked, cured, or pickled. Items with soy sauce or broth may also be filled with sodium. Salt adds flavor, but people monitoring their salt intake due to hypertension should cut back on it. Choose fresh fruit and salads for appetizers, and ask that foods be prepared without salt or MSG.
Snack before you leave. Don’t skip meals on the day you will be eating out. Also, have a nutritious, light snack before going to the restaurant to fend off extreme hunger pangs that can lead to overeating.
Select simple meals. Try choosing the most basic, lean meals when dining out. Grilled chicken or seafood without added sauces or toppings make for simple, healthy choices. Also, starchy foods may be high in calories, and some are seasoned with butter and oil, which adds significant fat content. Choose fruit, vegetables, or salads (without dressing) for side dishes.
Share portions. Split a large dish with someone else. If no one wants to split a meal, immediately wrap up half or two-thirds of the portion for later. This will help prevent overeating during a meal.
Maintaining healthy eating plans while dining out is possible with some advanced planning.