Eating out is on the rise, and that can be a challenge to good nutrition. Many see eating out as a festive opportunity, while others are forced into it because of work or travel. At home, people have control over the ingredients and cooking methods, but that all changes when someone else is in the kitchen. It’s really important to have a plan as you approach dining out. Even if you eat out regularly, there are still ways to enjoy your food and not pack on the pounds.
Your first step is ordering. Look for foods that have been cooked with healthier methods. Avoid foods that are deep-fried or sautéed in butter in favor of ones that have been baked or broiled. You can also ask for sauces and salad dressings on the side, allowing you to decide how much goes onto your food. If you’re really looking to cut back, don’t drink your calories. Alcohol and soda can add a ton of calories without any nutritional value. Reducing or eliminating them can keep your meal healthy.
Don’t be afraid to make substitutions when ordering. Some high-end restaurants may not allow it, but most will be happy to accommodate their customers. There is a world of difference between the amount of calories in pecorino and mozzarella cheese, and most restaurants will be happy to bake your fish instead of frying it. These minor substitutions can eliminate a lot of calories, so know before you go. The foods that benefit your diet at home-salads, steamed vegetables, lean meats-also benefit you when you are out.
Once you’ve ordered, controlling how much you consume can be a great challenge, as restaurants have continued to increase portion size in order to increase perceived value. For many people raised on the idea of the “happy plate club,” it’s tempting to feel obligated to finish your whole plate. However, you can order a to-go box with your meal and put away half of it before you get started. Many people say that eating with chopsticks will slow you down and make you eat less. One of the simplest things you can do is to put down your fork occasionally. This will force you to slow down, and it will give your body time to recognize that you have eaten and are full, reducing the desire to eat. Finally, don’t nibble. An endless bowl of chips or bread or those few bites at the end of the meal can really add up quickly.
Eating out doesn’t have to be a minefield of calories and bad nutrition. Following the fundamentals of good eating, including choosing healthy options, customizing them and controlling your portions and calorie intake, are the ways to eat healthy, whether you are at home or on the road.