Eating out is my guilty pleasure and I am not going to lie, choosing a salad instead of a juicy burger is a rare occasion. Dining out is a common and often necessary experience in today’s world. However, for me it can be hard to know what choices to make while trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
“Even the most conscious eaters can fall into traps when eating out like skipping meals during the day or eating large portions to get their money’s worth,” explains Lillian Swatek, RD, CDE, CSO, clinical outpatient dietitian at Banner Desert Medical Center. “But there are ways to enjoy the convenience without overeating.”
Swatek provided me with a couple really helpful tips to remember when dining out:
- Plan ahead. Knowing what restaurant you’re going to allows you to research the menu in advance. Making decisions beforehand will help you resist ordering fatty appetizers, beverages and desserts that can spike your caloric intake. If nutritional information is available, choose meals with less than 800 calories, 25 grams of fat, and 1,000 milligrams of sodium.
- Find out how the food at the restaurant is prepared, this can help you avoid hidden calories and fat. For example, a lot of restaurants use butter, salt and oils to prepare foods. Ask to skip them or request salt-free herbs instead.
- Grilled and baked meats are always a better alternative to fried or “crispy" options.
- Hold the cheese and get dressings and sauces on the side to save calories, sodium and fat.
The most important tip is to slow down and enjoy your food!
“Leaving some food on your plate or asking for a to-go box when you’re full is perfectly acceptable,” explains Swatek.
Paying better attention to what I am eating when dining out may be more work and not as exciting as diving into a plate full of cheese fries, but let’s face it, I’m not sixteen anymore.
Grilled chicken salad with dressing on the side it is.