Eating out can be an enjoyable part of a social life, but eating at restaurants on a regular basis can lead to poor health choices. The fact is, restaurant foods tend to be higher in calories and lower in nutrients than those prepared at home. In fact, recent studies have found a correlation between frequent restaurant meals and shortened lifespans.
The key to eating healthy when dining out is planning ahead. Make a list of where you plan to go and what you will order before going out. This will help you stick to your planned meal and not overeat. Also try to avoid arriving at the restaurant hungry, as it is harder to make good choices when you are starving. If possible, eat a healthy snack such as a handful of nuts before you head out to the restaurant.
When you do go out, choose menu items that contain protein (lean meat, fish or plant-based sources like beans), fiber and healthy fats (nuts, seeds or avocado). Avoid foods with added sugars, such as desserts, candy, pastries and cookies. In general, choose a protein-based appetizer or dish to keep you satisfied and eat a salad or other non-starchy vegetable for your main course. If you do have a favorite dessert, limit it to one serving and choose fruit, sorbet, sherbet, fruit ice or plain cake with fruit puree for your side dish.
Another important strategy is to ask your server how food is prepared. If you are served something that is fried, crispy, breaded or coated in butter, ask for it to be cooked differently. Also, be sure to order drinks without added sugar and choose water or low-fat milk instead of soda pop, juice or coffee with cream.
Lastly, be sure to read the menu. Look for items that are baked, steamed, broiled, grilled or roasted rather than fried or deep-fried. This will reduce calories and saturated fat.
A final tip is to use word of mouth when you are traveling. Talk to hotel staff, locals and other travelers to find out where the best places to eat are. This can be an excellent way to eat cheap and stay healthy while on vacation. It is also a great way to learn about the cuisine of the area you are visiting. And don’t forget to take your leftovers with you! This will ensure that you have a healthy snack for the next day.