- Food and Cooking
Sneaky Ways to Order Healthy at a Restaurant
It seems to be the inevitable cycle that as soon as I start a new "health kick," I get slammed with temptation from every angle.
As the kind of person who struggles with "everything in moderation," I tend to sway from one extreme to the other. I'm either eating ONLY leafy greens and fresh fruits, or I'm shoveling french fries into my face.
So each time a friend or family member invites me out to eat within days of starting a new diet, I usually face a disaster of epic proportions.
Here are ten sneaky tips to avoid derailing your diet every time you eat out.
#1 Don't Deprive Yourself Beforehand
I've fallen into this trap too many times.
"I'm going to eat a huge plate of Italian food tonight, so I'll just skip lunch to make up for it."
We do this with the best intentions, trying to balance out our calorie intake for the day. The problem lies in the fact that depriving yourself for one meal means you're going to be ravenous by the time your meal out rolls around.
Suddenly, you've eaten half of the bread basket, ordered an appetizer, and you just KNOW you're going to finish your pasta dish in one sitting.
Always proceed with caution when scrimping before a big meal. It's reasonable to cut back a little in preparation for your larger meal, but never skip, and make sure you eat enough to make it until dinner time!
#2 Do What You Can to Pick a Healthy Restaurant
You don't always get to choose - but if someone asks "Where would you like to go?" it's an open invitation to choose someplace a little healthier.
You can find a healthy meal at an Italian restaurant, but make life a little easier and why not choose someplace with lower calorie options.
Don't feel like you have to pick a health food restaurant, but steer your dinner group towards someplace with some healthier options. I like to choose sushi restaurants or places with vegan options.
#3 Know Before You Go
Welcome to the twenty-first century.
You can find the menu for just about any restaurant with a couple clicks of the mouse. If the restaurant offers the nutritional information online, you can make a choice right there. If they don't, look for something lean and grilled.
These days, you can even cut the work with a quick Google search for "healthiest Olive Garden orders."
If the restaurant trip is more impromptu, whip out your smartphone. There's no excuse to show up at a restaurant unprepared.
#4 Don't Be Peer Pressured
This is a good rule for almost any aspect of life - but especially when it comes to ordering your meal.
You Googled and picked out the healthy grilled salmon. You swore to yourself that you'd stick with it. And then your boyfriend picked the creamy linguini, and you're feeling like that salmon just isn't going to cut it anymore.
If you can order first, you'll save yourself from "order envy," and it will be easier to stay on track.
Remember what you picked and focus on it with a laser-like intensity. If that linguini won't be banished from your head, just steal a forkful or two when your boyfriend isn't looking!
#5 Don't Fall into a Salad Trap
Salad is the go-to option for anyone on a diet. And it's true; salad tends to be a safe choice.
But don't fool yourself into thinking that just because something is technically a salad, it's going to be "healthy."
A Caesar salad contains up to 500 calories. In fact, all of my favorite parts of a salad are the parts that make it bad for me. The Craisins, the croutons, the bleu cheese. And let's not forget the creamy dressings.
There isn't anything wrong with adding some of the fun things on top, as long as you build a solid and healthy foundation. Choose darker greens - spinach has much higher nutritional value than romaine lettuce, which has more vitamins than ice berg lettuce. Adding colorful vegetables like peppers, radishes, and carrots will enhance the flavor and the healthiness of your salad. Opting for a vinaigrette dressing over a cream-based one will spare you around one hundred calories.
#6 Ban the Bread Basket
Bread. We all love it. Even Mother Teresa herself would have trouble turning down a warm, fresh from the oven breadstick.
If you have the will power, keep your hands in your lap and leave that bread for someone else. If you HAVE to have one - keyword: ONE, then eat it slowly.
My technique for avoiding the bread basket is to quickly pass it to the other side of the table and then avoid making eye contact with it. I hide from the bread basket, guys. But it works!
To make sure you stay strong, refuse a second basket if the waitstaff asks. Because while it's painful but doable to say no to the first basket of steaming, carb-y goodness, the second one might take you down.
#7 Let Fried Food Go
I'm a sucker for anything fried. Which is why this rule is the hardest for me to follow.
Le'ts face it. Any food that has been fried is no longer healthy for you. This means that if you're eating healthy, you're going to have to say no to fried chicken, okra, shrimp, french fries, and anything else that went into that deep-fat fryer. I know. I'm crying on the inside, too.
Don't fall for the "sauteed" trap, either. "Sauteed" is just a fancy trick work for "FRIED."
#8 Split It Up
There is never anything wrong with splitting a meal. It's good for your wallet, it's good for your friendship, and it's good for your waistline.
If you can't overcome the idea of ordering a slice of cheesecake for dessert, ask if someone will split it. If you know your friend is ordering french fries as a side, and you want in on that salty goodness, ask if she'll split your healthy side of steam broccoli 50/50 so you get the best of both worlds.
Restaurants are usually more than willing to bring an extra plate to share your meal, so never be afraid to ask!
#9 Nobody Said you Had to Get an Entree
Listen, people. There is no rule that says you HAVE to order an entree. If you're not hungry, or you're trying to keep your calories low, pick an appetizer instead.
Instead of getting a full-sized hamburger and french fries for $12.99, pick the Hamburger sliders for $7.99. Your meal costs less, your portion sizes are smaller, and you'll still feel full. Better yet - you won't feel like you're missing out on your meal.
Restaurants are usually very willing to work with you, so if you order an appetizer, ask that it be brought to you with the rest of your party's meals.
#10 Stop When You're Full
My mom's "Clean Plate Club" rule ruined me for so many years.
I have a tendency to view each towering plate of food as a challenge.
Don't feel like you have to eat every single thing on your plate. Nine times out of ten, you're getting more than one serving size of food, anyways.
Eat slowly so your brain recognizes when you're full, and as soon as you're full, stop. Push your plate away. This is the universal sign for the wait staff to ask if you'd like a box.
Take the rest of your dinner home for another day, or simply let the waitstaff throw your leftovers away if you'd like to remove all temptation.
Don't get sidelined by the offer to go out for dinner. The most important rule when eating out on a diet is to remember your goals, and to stick with them.
The ability to say no to a big, juicy burger and steaming platter of french fries is hard - but don't let what you want in that moment come between what you want most of all, and what you've been working hard to achieve.
Now get out there and eat healthy!