Dining out at a restaurant or grabbing lunch at a fast food joint can easily add extra calories to your diet and hit your health and fitness regime. We all tend to splurge while eating out and count it as a break from our usual eating habits, however, if you’re one who eats out a lot or buys lunches at your workplace, then you might want to stop and rethink. Most of the food we eat outside, no matter how healthy it might seem, has hidden calories which perhaps only show the next time you try your favorite pair of jeans on again. Smart eating is not difficult if followed on a regular basis; it’s all about eating right, not eating less. Now, if you want to avoid eating a day’s worth of calories in one go at your favorite restaurant, here are a few tips on keeping your taste buds happy when eating out, while maintaining a check on the calorie meter:
Plan Your Outing
No matter how often you eat out, always plan what you will be eating and where. The what is important because if you’ve been craving a particular dish and consume a bag a full of chips before going out, it’s not going to help you. When going to eat out, always keep a check on how much you eat in the day, and cut down on unnecessary calories and food because you will be making up for it later in the day. If you’re going out for dinner, have a light lunch or vice versa. It’s also good to know your menu vocabulary well so you can order intelligently. Look for words like steamed, boiled, grilled or baked in your courses to limit calorie content and try to avoid rich or creamy foods such as ‘au gratin’, fried, or stuffed menu items.
Similarly, when deciding on a place to eat, always go through their menu on a website and look for nutritious meals and wider range of options to choose from. You can always ask the server at the restaurant about the nutritional content of a particular dish as well.
Almost any good restaurant gives you the option of modifying your order according to your preferences, and you must take advantage of that. Ask your server to cut down on oil and cheese when preparing the dish and it’s always a good idea to order high calorie sauces, gravies or dressing as a side order to your main, so you can add them according to your requirements and limit excess. Go for salads or fresh steamed veggies as opposed to fried food. Here are a few pointers:
Ask for smaller portions, and order less food if it’s just two people. As much as you are tempted to try more things from the menu, limit the number of dishes you order because you will want to finish it all and end up overeating in the process.
Try and balance out your meal, such that is has elements of cereals, vegetables, meat and fruits.
For items like sandwiches or breads, ask for low fat dressing and give the mayonnaise a miss.
Look for meal options where you can make your own order, with the flexibility to substitute any pre-designed menu options with healthier alternatives, such as going for a salad instead of soda and fries.
Watch out for the desert options. If you’re trying to watch the number of calories you take in, cut down on the sundaes and pancakes, and go for a desert with fresh fruit instead.
It’s a good idea to start your meals with something like soup, which is healthy and light at the same time. It will fill your stomach adequately and you can order a smaller portion of a main dish to complete your meal.
While ordering healthy is the tricky part, it also needs to be complimented by the actual act of eating healthy. A good way of avoiding overeating or finishing the huge portions served at restaurants is to divide your meal into half with a friend, share it or get it packed for home. If you feel hungry, have some more, but recognize the need to stop when you start feeling full. You can always get the leftovers home for later. It’s a good idea to ask if you the restaurant allows taking food home before ordering large quantities.
Eating slow is also important. Your body takes time to react to the food it has eaten and the it takes 20 minutes or more for your brain to get the message that you’re full. Eating slowly will allow the food to settle in your stomach and allow it to send across the message that you’re not hungry anymore, than if you stuff all your food in by eating fast and overeating in the process. If you happened to order a bigger entree, go for a smaller main or cut down the portion you eat. Similarly, if you like to sip a beverage with your meal, do so slowly because consuming the beverage before the meal will only fill your stomach in with liquid and you’ll feel hungry again in a short while.
The beverage you choose with your meal adds to the entire calorific content of your meal and we often end up ignoring our beverages choices when eating out. Sodas and alcoholic drinks are popular choices, but rank very low on nutrition and should be consumed in a limited quantity. A pitcher of coke to go with your salad isn’t doing much to save your diet. Simple water, or even green tea, fresh lime with salt or skim milk are good options. Fruit slushies or smoothies are also healthier to sodas because they aren’t adding empty calories into your system.
Eating out isn’t unhealthy if we make the right choices, and can seem less daunting for those who are trying to watch their weight for medical reasons as well. Keep restaurant favorites with specific dishes in mind for when you are in a hurry or can’t travel to a new place and go for those favorites, they will save time and also let you enjoy your meal without adding too many calories to your day.