It is often a challenge to eat healthy when dining out. As we enter into the holiday season, you may find yourself not only partaking in holiday cheer at home, but dining out more than usual as well. Americans already dine away from home nearly three times more than they did in the 1970’s and this increases during the holiday season. I ask clients not be a statistic during the holidays. The average weight gain between Halloween and New Year’s is 7 pounds. One of the ways you can avoid this and start the New Year off a bit healthier is to practice “dining out techniques” that will allow you to enjoy yourself without feeling uncomfortable or unhealthy.
Like anything else, following “healthy” dining out techniques gets easier with practice. See how many you can implement not only during the holiday season, but all year round.
Prepare for success. Pick the restaurant based on your research and know where you can get fresh, healthy, lower calorie, low fat meals.
Look up the menu and nutritional data before you go. Knowing what you are going to order before you get there will help.
If you know you are going out to eat, don’t skip other meals, but eat less to prepare for your restaurant meal. Shakes can be a “decision-free” meal option.
Have a high-fiber snack before you go to curb your hunger. Try something like an apple, carrots, low-sodium vegetable soup, Triscuits.
Decide in advance what you will splurge on and what you can do without.
If you drink alcohol, keep to wine or light beer. No sugary drinks. You may want to skip fruit during the day. Alternate drinks with water or sparkling water.
Put off ordering a drink until you have food in your belly. If you drink on an empty belly, you’re likely to forget about your intentions to eat healthy and rack up 1,000 calories.
Skip the bread and chips. This could be 300-500 calories before you get to your meal.
Share apps. Make sure there is something for you. Try shrimp cocktail, edamame, veggies, mussels marinara. No potato skins or Buffalo Wings (approx. 200-250 calories/piece)!
Order salad dressing on the side, or just use plain oil and vinegar. Go light on the oil. No Caesar dressing!
Consider ordering off an appetizer and a side dish instead of a full entre.
If you order a main entre, you may need to divide your meal in half (on the plate) immediately. It is extra important to pay attention to serving sizes when eating out.
Split an entrée with a friend or loved one.
Don’t let people push you into eating things that are bad for you. Be proud to be an example of eating healthy. You may encourage someone else.
Main Course – think broiled, boiled, baked, steamed or grilled. Not crispy, sautéed, au gratin or fried.
Remember that the leaner a protein in its natural state, the more calories and fat when fried. No fish-n-chips.
If you are stumped, order grilled protein and a double order of steamed vegetables.
Enjoy your company. People often lose site that they are dining out to enjoy the company of friends and family. Make that the priority instead of your meal. However, you should still order something that you will enjoy. Be satiated by multiple senses – vision, sight and taste.
Opt for fresh berries or fruit salad for dessert. To opt out of dessert, order a warm beverage to keep your hands busy while others enjoy their desserts. You will be less likely to pick at the high calorie, high fat desserts that others have ordered.
Lastly, keep in mind that healthful eating in not about being “perfect”. If you get carried away, hopefully on really good food that you can’t get all of the time, don’t sweat it. One night of over-indulgence won’t rack up lots of pounds. Just be sure to get back on track the next day.
Cheryl Watkins, CHHC, Nutrition & Wellness Counselor, Doylestown.
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