Eating out can be a gamble especially for people who are watching their weight or managing certain health conditions. Many of the foods prepared outside of the home are high in calories, fat, sodium, and sugar, but that doesn't mean they are completely off limits. Follow these tips to help you enjoy a meal out without depriving yourself.
1. Eat at Your Usual Times
Be sure to eat your regular meals and snacks. Do not skip meals in an effort to "save" calories before a big meal. By doing this, you may find yourself ravenous, which may lead to making poor choices and consuming larger portions than you otherwise would.
Be sure to get your regular activity in each day. If you know you're going to splurge or have a higher calorie meal than usual, exercise more intensely or for a longer period of time to help burn off some of those extra calories.
3. Stay Hydrated
Drinking plenty of water can help you stay alert and offset the effects of eating high sodium foods. Additionally, thirst cues can be mistaken for hunger cues, so if you stay hydrated, you'll most likely eat less.
4. Do Your Research
If you know you're going to a particular establishment ahead of time, go to their website and see if you can locate their nutrition facts. Find and decide on appetizing meal that fits within your calorie budget.
5. Ask for Assistance
If you have no way of researching the menu beforehand, ask your server to tell you which foods are the healthiest or lowest in calories. Ask them how the food is prepared and if they will accommodate special requests. Most establishments are happy to comply if you ask politely. You may want to ask them to do any of the following:
- Use Pam spray instead of butter
- Not to add salt while cooking
- Trim visible fat from poultry or meat
- Use less oil when preparing your dish
- Remove butter, cream sauce or gravy from a dish
- Serve salad dressing or sauce on the side
6. Enjoy Your Food - Stop Eating When You Feel Satisfied
Take your time eating, chew slowly, and enjoy your food and the company of the people you are eating with - engage them in conversation to help you eat more slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to communicate to the brain that you are full. If you eat too quickly, you'll be over-stuffed by the time you receive that signal.
7. Split a Meal
Eating out can mean going out to a nice restaurant, trying new foods, and/or being indulgent. Instead of denying yourself, split rich foods and desserts with someone, and add a salad or raw or cooked vegetables on the side.
8. Get a Doggy Bag
If you aren't sharing a meal, eat just half of what's on your plate and box up the other half to take home. You'll save money and calories, and you'll have a delicious, precooked meal at your fingertips. If you know you won't be able to resist the other half of your meal if it's on your plate, ask your waiter, while ordering your meal, to box up half of your meal before serving it and bring you the other half when you pay for your check.
9. Watch Alcohol Intake
Some drinks like margaritas, piña coladas, and ice cream drinks have as many calories as a meal. Instead, choose light beer, mixed drinks with diet mixers, or dry wine. Stick to just one drink if you are going to have alcohol. Drinking in excess can lower eating inhibitions.
Mandy Seay is a bilingual registered and licensed dietitian who holds both a bachelor's degree in nutrition and in journalism. After gaining 30 pounds while living abroad, Mandy worked to lose the weight and regain her health. It was here that she discovered her passion for nutrition and went on to pursue a career as a dietitian. Mandy currently works as a nutrition consultant and freelance writer in Austin, Texas, where she specializes in diabetes, weight management and general and preventive nutrition. She recently published her first book, Your Best Health, a personalized program to losing weight and gaining a healthy lifestyle. Please visit Mandy's website at Nutritionistics.com.