At Verve, we always recommend preparing meals at home using fresh, healthy ingredients. However, we know that everyone likes to go out to eat every now and then. Eating out, when done in moderation, can be a fun way to meet with friends, conduct a business meeting or try new and exciting foods.
If you are trying to stick to a healthy meal plan, the biggest challenge with eating out is having to ask, “is it healthy?”
The answer to this question is, YES! By planning ahead, prioritizing your meal and asking a few simple questions, eating out can be healthy. The next time you head out to a restaurant, follow these simple rules for a healthier eating out experience:
1. PLAN YOUR RESTAURANT VISIT
Do not skip a meal before going to a restaurant because this will encourage you to eat more. To maximize hunger control, eat sensibly through the day or enjoy a small snack on your way to the restaurant. For added meal planning assistance, research nutrition information for your favorite restaurant meals by using a nutrition database site such as www.nutritionix.com.
2. DRINK WATER
There are several studies that show that drinking one or more glasses of water before a meal will provide your stomach with a sense of fullness, so less food needs to be consumed to satisfy one’s hunger. This can lead to consuming fewer calories during the meal. Plus, by choosing water during your meal instead of soda or other sugary beverages you will be able to cut out even more calories.
We all have favorite foods and restaurants, but it is important to stick to your meal priorities while dining out. If you are there for the fajitas, skip the beans and rice. If you are there for chocolate cake, have a light dinner before.
4. SPEND MORE TIME WITH YOUR WAITER
Do not be afraid to ask for changes to your order. Remember, you are the customer and most restaurants will try to accommodate your wishes. While checking the menu, don’t be afraid to ask these questions if appropriate:
• How big is the portion?
• May I have a smaller portion?
• May I order a child’s portion?
• May I order an appetizer as my entrée?
• Can you put half of the meal in a “to go” box?
• How is the food prepared?
• May I have this food item prepared differently? (Ex: steamed, baked, or broiled vs. fried)
• May I have my vegetables and potatoes without butter or cheese?
• May I request grilled instead of breaded meat?
• Are there light sauces or low-fat dressings? May I have the sauce on the side?
• Can I make a substitution? (Ex: wheat bread vs. white or baked potato vs. fries)
• May I see the nutritional value of the meal? (They should have it available)
5. THE LITTLE STUFF COUNTS
While enjoying your favorite foods, cut back on the things that are not important to you. Consider switching to water, diet soda or skim milk. Try low-fat dressings. Avoid adding butter to bread and ask for the chips and salsa to be removed from the table when you know you’ve had enough. Making some of these small changes can make a big difference in your health and your waistline.