We live in a world built around food. There are restaurants everywhere (except that long stretch of highway you’ve been on for hours when you’re starving) and no shortage of convenience stores with snacks a plenty. No matter how disciplined you have become at home, at some point you will find yourself staring at a menu with everything on it calling your name. There are a few guidelines that will help you stick to your plan when eating out.
Just because you are leading a healthier lifestyle doesn’t mean that you will never get to step foot in you favorite restaurant again. Here are some points that will let you eat out without undoing all the good you have accomplished so far.
Most restaurants have nutrition information available online. Look it up before you go and plan what you will eat before you go.
Plan your other meals that day accordingly so you will still be on the positive end of the energy balance.
Choose Foods Carefully
Beverages will quickly elevate calorie counts. Stick with drinks without added sugar such as water or tea.
A salad is always a good choice, but beware of fat laden dressing. This can quickly add up to just as many calories and grams of fat as a cheeseburger. Always ask for the dressing on the side and only add as much as you need for flavor.
Broth based soups and sauces are usually lower in fat and calories than creamy ones.
Quit Eating When You Are Full
Just because they have it doesn’t mean you need to eat it.
Take the rest of your portion home for lunch tomorrow (not midnight snacking tonight).
If you are older than 4, there are no awards for clean plate club.
Take Charge of the Situation
If you don’t see options that fit your lifestyle, ask if menu selections can be cooked a different way, for example: steamed, grilled and broiled are always good alternative to fried or sautéed.
Ask to skip the bread basket which is loaded with empty calories and opt for a vegetable based appetizer like edamame. Better yet, skip the appetizer all together and save the calories for your entree.
Always order the smaller portion or ask for an appetizer, lunch or children’s size. Restaurant portions are notoriously large and even the smaller size dishes are usually more than a normal serving. You can always get an additional side item later if you are still hungry.
If you happen to live in the real world the chances are good, despite the best of intentions, you will find yourself scurrying frantically from important event #1 to important event #2 with little or no time in between to plan, prepare and eat a healthy meal. Fast food to the rescue. It happens. More often than it should sometimes. Yes, fast food is typically devoid of nutrients and is essentially ‘filler’. No, it shouldn’t be a staple in your diet. But, if you find yourself needing some fast, cheap calories, know that there are some healthier fast-food options available.
Order smarter: Know that as much as half of the fat in a sandwich can come from the dressing and sauces. Order them plain and add some catsup or mustard for flavor. Always order a grilled version instead of the breaded and fried alternative.
Better Sides: Baked potatoes, corn-on-the-cob or sliced apples are decent choices.
Low fat options: Sandwiches you order with out added dressings such as Subway are good options. Beware of serving size here, though. Half a sandwich is usually a serving.
Non-fried options: Chipotle and Taco Bell and other Tex-Mex chains offer meat, rice and beans in various forms that don’t touch a deep fryer. The tortilla usually has the highest calorie count, so if you can order a bowl instead you’ll save plenty of calories without sacrificing taste. Guacamole or sour cream on the side, if at all.
Liquid calories: At least save yourself the added empty calories from the beverage and ask for a water instead.
Take Away: Try, try, try to avoid the fast food window if you can. Plan meals and snacks ahead of time so you don’t find yourself in a bad situation. But, if you do find yourself dining in your car, do the very best you can.