While many consider eating out a fun treat, others may find it a bit stressful when trying to stick to their healthy eating plan. But fear not, below is a set of healthy dining out options that make it easy to navigate the most common diet pitfalls restaurants present — and allow you to enjoy your company and your meal.
Explore The Menu Before Going Out
Restaurants can sometimes feel a little chaotic — especially when you are out catching up with friends or celebrating with family. Allowing yourself the time to study the menu in the quiet time before heading out — and making sound decisions, like choosing healthy fats over trans fats, can enable you to enjoy the time out without stressing about what to eat. This way, you will also be less likely to order something unhealthy off the menu because you felt rushed.1
Choose A Restaurant That’s Familiar To You
No matter your dietary needs there is sure to be a restaurant that can accommodate you. You may be better off picking one you already know well to help you make healthier choices while still feeling satiated.
One study found that individuals may experience greater satiation — that is, satisfaction — after consuming a familiar meal, rather than trying something new.2 But of course, if you see something healthy on the menu that also sounds delicious, give it a try.
Drink A Glass Of Water Before Eating
Arriving at a restaurant ravenous can really throw off your ability to control your portion sizes — so the aim of this tip is to curb the hunger pangs to help you make healthier choices.
According to one study, individuals who drank 17 ounces of water a half-hour before meals consumed fewer calories and lost nearly 45 percent more weight than those who didn’t add this little trick to their routine.3
Have Soup As Your Starter
Unhealthy fat, particularly trans fat, can often be found in many of the deep-fried appetizer options. Skip this part of the menu altogether, and start your meal with a healthier soup (think vegetable and legume soups, such as lentil, over cream-based options).
Multiple studies have shown that soup may help reduce the overall number of calories consumed during a meal, thanks to its satiation effects.4,5
Substitute To Strike A Healthy Balance
Consider substituting your side of fries or pasta with nutrient-dense steamed vegetables, such as green beans, broccoli, or Brussels sprouts. You’ll satisfy your craving while upping your vegetable intake.
One study found that depriving oneself of a particular food craving may lead to even more cravings and overeating.6
Practice The Buddy System
If there’s something on the menu that you just can’t resist, try planning ahead of time to split your entree with someone else at the table equally focused on making healthier choices.
One study reviewing long-term weight loss found splitting entrees or ordering half portions may help keep the weight off.7
Chew More To Eat Less
By focusing on savoring each bite before swallowing, you’ll not also enjoy your food for longer, but you may reduce the overall number of calories consumed.
Individuals in one study who increased the average number of chews per bite increased the duration of their meal while reducing the overall amount of food they ate.8
Get Your Sauces And Dressings On The Side
Choosing your salad dressing and sauce on the side allows you to control how much you consume, instead of leaving it up to fate back in the kitchen.
Chose A Smart Dessert
Trying to eat healthier while eating out doesn’t mean you have to do away with dessert altogether. Try switching out the really calorie-dense desserts with fresh fruit dipped in dark chocolate.
Compare these sweet treats: Two medium-sized strawberries dipped in dark chocolate have approximately 105 calories, while a slice of
chocolate cake has around 352 calories.9,10
Bonus: Tips And Tricks For Eating Healthier At Fast-Food Restaurants
When it comes to eating out, fast-food restaurant chains, in particular, have a reputation for their vast selection of unhealthy options and super-sized portions. However, no matter where you are eating, it all comes down to choosing the right ingredients — meaning it’s possible to eat “healthy fast food.” How do you do this? Consider these tips and tricks:
Choose a fast-food restaurant that allows you to build your own plate or bowl. For example, a fast-food Mexican restaurant that has all the ingredients in front of you to choose what goes into your bowl. You control how much or how little of any particular ingredient.
Additionally, now more than ever you can find fast-food restaurants that specialize in salads.
Skip the cola and go for carbonated water with fresh lemon or lime. 16 fluid ounces of cola has 52 grams of sugar and 201 calories. You could have four chocolate-covered strawberries for dessert for the same caloric count. Not to mention cola is either loaded with sugar or health-damaging artificial sweeteners.11
Focus on increasing your fiber. Fiber may help you feel more satiated after a meal — so instead of worrying about finding the healthiest
option on the menu, just focus on ways to increase your overall fiber intake.12
Choosing Healthy Dining Out Options Has Never Been Easier
Don’t let a meal out with friends or family throw you off your healthy eating plan. You now have the tools you need to make healthy choices without compromising on the experience of going out and treating yourself.