At least once a week the opportunity presents itself to meet with friends, family or coworkers for dinner at a local restaurant. More times than not, those nights lead to over-indulging on high calorie foods and drinks. For some of us, this happens more than once a week. Months later, we’re wondering how did we gain those last ten pounds?
Dining out doesn’t have to always be self sabotage to your healthy lifestyle. Using savvy-eating strategies will help to prevent weight gain while still enjoying a night out.
First thing first, you must prepare. Having a plan always helps. If you know that you are going to out to dinner that evening, cut back on your caloric intake during the day with other meals and snacks. Another helpful planning tip is becoming familiar with cooking basics, especially if you need to control calories, fat and other nutrients. For example, look for menu items that are steamed, broiled, baked or grilled. Also, limit foods that are fried or have the words “crispy,” “rich,” or “au gratin.” Another great plan is to research the restaurant menu online prior to arrival so that you have a good idea of what your choices will be.
When ordering, balance your meal by choosing foods from all the different food groups. Look for a freshly made entrée salad which includes chicken, cheese or seafood along with other vitamins and minerals from vegetable add-ins. Be careful when choosing dressing and always have it on the side as opposed to mixed in. If choosing a sandwich, stay clear from high calorie toppings. Sticking to lettuce, tomato or onions are a safe option. Avoid high calorie toppings such as Russian dressing or mayonnaise. Choosing ketchup or mustard is always better. Round out your meal by ordering healthy side dishes. Side salads, grilled vegetables, or fruit are usually all available at most restaurants. If your meal comes with fries, ask to substitute with a side salad and you will deduct almost 400 calories from your meal.
Many restaurants serve huge portions. Sometimes these entrees are enough to feed two or three people. In this case, order menu items that contain fewer calories and eat a smaller portion. You can bring home leftovers or share them with others. Another option is ordering an appetizer in place of an entrée and add a small salad.
Dining out may be intimidating for those of us who are trying to maintain a healthy diet, but with preparation and confidence, you can enjoy your meal without abandoning healthy eating.
Laurie Taunton MS RD