Making Healthy Decisions When You’re Eating Out

You’re on a family vacation.

You’re meeting clients downtown for lunch.

You’re eating out with some friends after catching a movie.

The situation may change.

But the question stays the same: What are you going to eat?

It’s one thing to eat healthy at home when you’re in control of what’s available but eating out can sometimes put a strain on our healthy eating habits.  Travel and meals out are a part of life so feeling confident and comfortable with making healthy choices with the options you’re given is an important part of continuing your healthy lifestyle.

Here are a few simple tips you can take with you wherever you go…

Tip 1: Be prepared

Many restaurants now have websites where you can download menus. If possible, do your homework before you go. Look through the menu and decide on your choices beforehand, so you aren’t caught off guard.

Tip 2: Look for lean protein and veggies

You can order off menu to combine them. Examples include a salad topped with a chicken breast or shrimp; or substituting additional veggies instead of starch for an entrée. Look for “side orders” that may include veggies or fruit, or things like scrambled eggs for brunch. Any way you can strategize around excess processed carbs to get lean protein and veggies is good. Don’t be shy about asking for substitutions.

Tip 3: Don’t believe what menus say.

Don’t believe anything a menu says. It’s designed to catch your attention and make you want to eat, not give you the facts. A lot of English grads are employed by restaurant chains. Their job? To make often prefabricated food sound appealing. Ask your server how the dish is prepared. You might imagine that “grilled” involves an open flame, but very likely the food’s been fried, imprinted with fake grill marks, frozen, shipped, then reheated at the restaurant.

 Tip 4: Be careful of health claims.

Restaurants are responding to health-conscious consumers… kind of. But often what they label as “healthy” is anything but. For example… “low-fat”. Many unhealthy things are low-fat: jellybeans, cola, etc. Often, manufacturers put sugar and salt into foods to compensate for lower fat. Low fat doesn’t mean low calorie, low sugar, or high protein.

Tip 5: Portion sizing – try appetizers

If you’re in an American restaurant, there’s an excellent chance that your portion will be much too big. Americans like to feel they’re getting value for their money, and in the last two decades, restaurants have increasingly catered to this perception with bigger and bigger servings.

Order an appetizer as your meal with a side salad.  The amount of food you get with an appetizer and a small side salad is usually just the right amount – unlike the oversized portions often found on the entrée menu.

Tip 6: Portion sizing – eat half now

Sometimes, entrées are actually good options if the salads, soups, and appetizers are too full of junk. Many entrées are some combination of protein and veggies. Order it, eat half of it, and ask the server to wrap up the remainder. (Better yet, ask the server to wrap it up immediately, before you eat, so it’s not sitting there in front of you whispering “Eaaat meee”.)

So, as you can see, these are simple hacks that can make a difference in the quality of food you eat while eating out.  With healthy restaurants popping up everywhere, it becomes easier and easier to find healthy options while eating out, so take advantage of that.   What are some of your favorite healthy hacks to use while eating out?  Leave a comment and let me know, I love to add new tips to my arsenal!




Precision Nutrition:Making Healthy Choices from a Restaurant Menu

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