My Tips for Eating Out at a Restaurant When Trying to Stick to Your Diet!
(If this is your cheat meal, then obviously some of these things may not need apply).
Don’t go starving. You are less likely to choose the greasiest, most unhealthy thing on the menu if you don’t go to the restaurant ravenous. Have a small snack consisting of protein about an hour or so before you leave.
Avoid the bread basket or chips and salsa. It’s easy to mindlessly fill up on the empty carbs before your meal even arrives. The chips and bread can add hundreds of calories to what could have been a low-calorie night out.
Skip the appetizer. As with the bread basket, it can add hundreds more calories and probably a lot more UNhealthy fats and simple carbs to what could be a healthy night out. If you do pick an appetizer, choose something that isn’t fried or packed with things like full fat cheeses.
If you order a salad before your meal, be aware that while most side salads ARE low in calories (if they aren’t littered with nuts, dried fruit, cheese or croutons)… most dressings are LOADED with sugar and fat. Avoid creamy dressings like ranch, blue cheese and thousand island. Choose vinaigrettes instead. While vinaigrettes can still be high in calories, fat and sugar, they are the “safer” choice.
The above-mentioned guideline about side salads applies to regular salads as well. A lot of people assume if they order a salad, they are choosing something healthy and relatively low in calories. Think again! Most salads can pack more calories, sugar and fats than a burger and fries combined! Things like dried fruit, nuts, full-fat cheeses, croutons and other toppings will make what was originally a low calorie, low fat, low sugar bowl of lettuce/spinach and turn it into a mound of calorie overload. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t order a salad, it just means you should be aware that you are not necessarily choosing something that will work with your daily macros/calorie intake.
Avoid ordering foods that have any of these words before them: breaded, battered, crispy, crunchy, crusted, buttered, cheesy, country-style, creamy, glazed, gooey, honey-dipped, melted, smothered or fried. These are all extremely good indicators of un-healthy, fat, carb and sugar-loaded junk!
Look instead for options that contain the following: baked, broiled, roasted, fresh, multi-grain, broth, seared, poached, grilled, sautéed, spiced, and steamed.
Don’t be afraid to ask the server for the nutrition facts menu. California is required to provide one I believe (I see them all over now!) That way you can make an even more specific choice! This way, you can also scope out substitutes for some of the ingredients and/or sides that your meal comes with!
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for things on the side! Dressings, marinades, high-calorie toppings and adders, syrups and other extras can be more easily controlled if you can put them on yourself! Don’t add salt! I can almost GUARANTEE whatever you wind up ordering will likely come loaded with salt.
Restaurants are notorious for WAY overdoing the portion sizes. Save half or more of your meal for later! That way you can get two or more meals out of it! You can ask the server to pack half of it up before it even gets to your table. (Or if you have the will-power, eat half and ask for a to go box after).
Also, consider ordering something to split with a friend, family member or significant other! That way you don’t have to worry about carry the leftovers home and you can both enjoy a lighter dinner!
Lastly, skip dessert. You’ll be glad you did. Some single slices of cheesecake and other goodies can pack more than 1,000 calories!!!
While you might be thinking “I don’t want to be annoying by asking for all kinds of ingredients on the side”… don’t. If the restaurant had been smart enough to provide healthier options, they wouldn’t have had to worry about people ordering substitutes and giving special instructions. In addition, remember that many people with severe food allergies also must ask the server to have the food prepared sans their allergen! Don’t be shy about speaking up! If it’s a first date or something, I might understand the hesitation… but even still… don’t be afraid to ask nicely for what you want! =)