Haley Shaw is a wellness specialist and public speaker for her company, Amp Up Fitness. Here, she outlines her tips for making dining out a healthier experience.
Whether you’re on the go and hungry or merely catching up with old friends, there’s a big chance you’ll be heading to a fast food chain or sit-down restaurant before the day is over. But there is no point in feeling defeated! There are healthy options outside of your home. Trust me: with these tips, you’ll feel confident when you order next time you dine out.
Check the Restaurant’s Website Ahead of Time
Taking a look at the menu ahead of time allows you head into the restaurant with a plan. If you don’t like what you’re seeing, pick a different restaurant.
Power Snack Before You Go
A light, protein-rich snack a few hours before a meal can dull your hunger and help you eat more selectively. Don’t arrive at the restaurant famished; you don’t want to fall headfirst into the breadbasket or an indulgent appetizer.
Scan for Better-for-You Options
Order from the lower-calorie or lighter-choices section on the menu, if it’s available. Many restaurants are putting great creativity and flavor into those dishes, and the menu often lists the nutrition content. Look for these:
• Seafood, chicken, turkey, and fresh, seasonal produce that’s grilled, steamed or roasted
• Tomatoes, fruits salsas or chutneys
• Pico de gallo, oil and vinegar, marinated vegetables, citrus vinaigrettes, beans and whole grains
Get Exactly What You Want
Be prepared to mix and match. This is a powerful key to the dining kingdom; Ask for it your way! (You’re the one paying for it, right?) For example:
• If an item is fried, simply ask to have it grilled. For example, “crispy” fish in fish tacos can be grilled instead.
• Instead of a side of creamed spinach, ask for it sautéed with lemon. Order your broccoli or zucchini steamed rather than bathed in cheese sauce.
• If a dish comes with French fries, au gratin potatoes, or mac and cheese, ask for a side of grilled, steamed or roasted veggies, or fruit instead.
Spice It Up Right
Consider herbs, hot sauce, spices or salt/pepper instead of creamy sauces as your go-to!
Rethink Your Drink Options
• Choose wine or a simple martini, instead of mixed drinks (mixed drinks can be well over 300 or 350 calories. Glass of wine or martini has about 120-150 calories).
• Drink water or sparkling water with your meals and alcoholic drink, instead of diet or regular soda. Water helps fill us up, so we tend to consume less alcohol, or prevent us from eating dessert.
• Skip the fancy cocktails and opt for a glass of wine, a light beer, a rum/vodka and tonic/soda water or a simple martini without sweet liquors or simple syrups.
Keep These High-Calorie Red Flags in Mind
Anything creamy, crispy, fried, breaded, stuffed or smothered. Instead, order foods that are steamed, grilled, baked or broiled and always include a protein source.
Lastly, remember everything in moderation. If you want to splurge and have French fries, have your French fries! As a Wellness Consultant, I want each of my clients to feel confident within their own skin and know that eating 100% perfect all the time is not recommended. Select one or two days (depending on your overall goals) to have your cake, alcoholic beverages, French fries – and know that you’re okay.
Next time you dine out and want to splurge a bit, pick one dish to splurge, and let the rest be “healthier” options. For example, I love myself some wine and French fries. Therefore, I will skip appetizer and dessert, have a glass (or two) throughout dinner, order a delicious salad and side of French fries. My dish to splurge was a combination between two drinks and side of fries to share with others at my table.