Sticking to a diet can be challenging when you're eating away from home. With so many choices and delicious temptations, there's probably a good chance that your willpower will go right out the window and you'll pick whatever meal looks or sounds the tastiest, ignoring nutritional content. Since many food choices are based on spur-of-the-moment decisions, it's wise to come up with a plan in advance that can help you stick to your goal of eating healthily, even when you're at a restaurant or fast food joint. Here are some changes you should make to have better away-from-home dining experiences.
1. Don't choose the restaurant at the last minute.
If you decide on where you're going as you're in the car, en route, you're likely to choose an eatery based on convenience, driving time and/or cost. Take a little extra time to plan where you're going ahead of time. This way you'll be better prepared for how much money you'll be shelling out and how long it will take you to get to your destination. Choose a restaurant with the healthiest meal options, and do all you can to avoid buffets and all-you-can eat places. Restaurants with seafood or salad bars as their featured menu items are often good choices and usually offer healthier options.
2. Don't let your stomach dictate your meal choice.
This means if you can find your chosen restaurant's menu online, decide what you want ahead of time and staunchly stick to it. Also, don't go to dinner completely starving—this is a recipe for disaster. If you have to quell your hunger a little bit before your meal, have a few pieces of fruit, a small salad or low-fat Greek yogurt with two tablespoons of ground flaxseed to help fill you up and prevent you from overeating later on. Likewise, drinking plenty of water beforehand and even during your meal can help you to not confuse thirst with hunger and make better decisions.
3. Don't fall victim to tantalizing menu terminology.
The way a menu item is described can play a paramount role in determining whether you choose to order it. Avoid any meals that contain these words: smothered, creamy, fried, battered, breaded, loaded, crispy. On the contrary, terms that typically signify a healthier choice are: steamed, grilled and broiled. Foods that fall under the menu's low-calorie, low-fat or “light” fare are usually also healthier options.
4. Don't be the last one to order.
Once you've had the chance to hear what each of your friends is ordering—probably including plenty of highly-caloric, fatty, delicious foods—your decision to order a salad can suddenly sound unappealing in contrast. To avoid feeling the pressure to pick a meal that ranks on the same level as your fellow diners, put your order in first. This way you can avoid the temptation to switch menu items and keep your willpower strong.
5. Don't be ignorant about what foods are considered the healthier options.
Foods that have plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy or lean protein—like chicken, turkey or fish—are often your best bet in healthier menu choices. However, if you do pick a menu item with any or all of these elements, make sure that the add-ons don't throw you off. Any sauces, dressings or sides should come just like that: on the side. When you have control over how much of that sauce you use—if any—it makes things a lot easier on your waistline.
6. Don't let the appetizers or pre-dinner freebies win.
When that steaming bread basket comes to your table, it might be nearly impossible to resist. To avoid wrecking your diet before your entrée even arrives, limit your intake of appetizers or avoid them altogether. If you just can't miss out on the extra-crispy tortilla chips, pick the salsa over the cheese dip and limit yourself to only a few. On the other hand, if there's an appetizer that you just can't pass up, try making it your meal and forgoing an entrée. Choosing two healthy appetizers can be just as satisfying and even healthier than an entrée. If you're not sure what to do, a salad and a healthy appetizer is usually a good bet.
7. Don't race through your meal.
This simple tip can save you a lot of post-meal guilt. Making a deliberate effort to eat slowly and be mindful of each bite can stop you from overeating. When dining out with other people, you may unintentionally try to keep pace with the fastest eater at the table. Likewise, if you finish eating before everyone else, it's possible that you'll continue to nibble on leftover appetizers or even order an additional item so you can continue to stay on par with your fellow diners.
8. Don't let dessert be your downfall.
If you make it through your meal with only healthy foods in your belly, then congratulations! One of the trickiest parts often comes next, however. When the server comes around and asks if you've saved room for dessert, your friends might start piping up with all of their brownie, ice cream, pie and cake choices. You don't have to feel left out, though. Fruit for dessert is often a wise choice, but only if it is devoid of whipped cream and other unhealthy toppings. Don't be afraid to ask your server to remove these from the dish—it can spare you a lot of guilt, extra calories and fat.
Choosing appropriate meal options when eating away from home can be tricky, but it doesn't necessarily have to be a diet-ruining experience. We hope these tips can spare you some grief and guilt the next time you choose to dine out.
Thanks for reading, and come back tomorrow for more eVitamins health news!