Carolyn McAnlis, Dietitian and Pink Hope Ambassador covers dining out in this blog post.
One of the hardest parts of maintaining a healthy diet is dining out. While dining out is fun and sociable, it almost guarantees that you’ll eat more calories than you would at home. Fortunately, now most restaurants have healthier options on their menus – you just have to know how to look for them.
Avoiding entrées altogether can help keep the cost lower, and can also help you avoid extra calories consumed out of boredom. Alternatively, order one entrée for the whole table and only try a small portion. Skip any bread that is offered, which could spoil your main meal.
For the main course, choosing how your meal is cooked, as well as the sauces and sides it comes with, can make a huge difference in the total calories of the dish. Opt for meals that have vegetables or lean protein like skinless chicken breast or fish as the main ingredients.
Cooking methods can also make a big difference. Avoid anything fried, which also includes those described as tempura or “crispy” as well. Grilled or broiled is the best option, as these cooking methods don’t require any added oils. Look for key phrases that will tell you a bit about the dish or how it was prepared. For example, descriptions that include “au gratin” (topped with cheese), “buttery,” “creamy” etc. will most likely contain added fats.
The next thing to consider is if the dish has any sauces or additives. Cream sauces are loaded with fat, so choose a tomato-based sauce. Even better, ask for the sauce or dressings on the side so you can control how much is put on.
When ordering, don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions. Swap the side of French fries for a small salad or a baked potato, or swap a white dinner roll for a whole wheat option.
Keep in mind that it’s easy to consume lot of calories from drinking; 2 glasses of red wine contains 250 calories. Drink water, or stick to one glass.
Remember the following when eating out:
• Skip the entrée and bread to avoid ruining the main course
• Choose meals based on veggies and lean protein
• Opt for dishes that are grilled or broiled; avoid fried items
• Ask for sauces and dressings on the side
• Make substitutions if possible
• Drink water or one serving of alcohol
These tips are especially important if you frequently eat at restaurants. If you rarely eat out, you can use it as a time to indulge, but pick one thing, like an amazing entrée or decedent dessert.
A trick that I often use is to check the menu of the restaurant before going out. If I really can’t find anything that I would eat, I’ll suggest a different restaurant. But, with the tips above, I can usually find something that I feel good about eating while still enjoying myself.
Tips by Type of Cuisine: