Healthy and Happy: 20 Tips for Eating Healthy at Restaurants
Forget the rumors! You CAN get healthy without sacrificing your social life. The next time you’re at a restaurant, try these tips for eating healthy.
Whether you’re dining out with friends, on a romantic date, or during a business meeting, there are times you can’t avoid the dreaded restaurant!
Having an indulgent meal every now and again is no sin. But when it becomes a habit, you need to take action.
There are ways to eat delicious, healthy meals at restaurants without throwing a calorie bomb into your diet. To do it, you need a smart game plan. Read on to find out 20 tips for eating healthy.
The Scout motto is “be prepared.” If you’re prepared with a game plan, you’ll be able to make your restaurant trip a success.
Check out the next five tips for finding the healthiest restaurants.
1. Do Your Homework
One of the best tips for eating healthy is to choose a restaurant in advance. Since most venues post their menus online, it’s easy to find the best ones to visit and the ones to avoid.
If they offer a lot of fatty foods on their menu that could be a temptation, skip it and go somewhere else. Search for healthy food restaurants on Google, and you might find some health-oriented places to eat.
When you’re looking for healthy dishes at restaurants, many ethnic food eateries are a great option. For instance, Japanese, Thai, Greek, or Indian. It’s a lot easier to eat clean at one of these venues compared to an Italian or Mexican restaurant.
2. The Right Vibe
Picking healthy dishes at restaurants isn’t enough. You also have to choose a place with the right atmosphere.
Listen to the music. Restaurants that have loud hectic music make you eat to the beat. If the music is softer and slower, you’ll spend more time at the table, but eat less.
The same applies to color. Restaurant decor can either stimulate you to eat more or calm your mind so you can have a relaxed experience.
For instance, the colors red, orange, and yellow will spur you to order more. Soft blue, gray, and peach, on the other hand, will create a relaxed ambiance.
3. Book in Advance
When you’re waiting for a table at a restaurant, you’ll only get hungrier and hungrier. When you finally sit down, you’ll devour all the table bread and give up on your diet for the night.
The solution is simple. Book healthy restaurants in advance – and you won’t have time to get hungry.
4. Be Wise in Your Seat Choice
When choosing where to sit in a restaurant, most people avoid the area around the bathroom. But an even more dangerous place to sit is near the kitchen.
It’s one thing to see the lip-smacking descriptions on the menu. But to see them coming out from the kitchen and smell the delicious aromas is way too much of a temptation, especially when you’re hungry.
Another tip is to choose a seat near or opposite a mirror. It might sound strange, but it’s backed up by research. Scientists have found that if you watch yourself in a mirror while eating unhealthy foods, they seem less tasty.
5. Eyes Too Big for Your Belly
According to research, people are bad at estimating how much a portion size should be. This means that on any given day, we’re probably eating more than we should.
So, whatever you do, avoid all you can eat restaurants. It’s way too tempting. Plus, these restaurants often have a no waste policy – if you’ve put it on your plate, you must eat it.
If a buffet is the only option, try using a smaller plate. Or fill half of a normal sized plate with veggies before you start snacking on goodies.
You Are What You Eat
You’ve found a healthy restaurant, now it’s time to choose your meal. This is the toughest part. But you can do it if you follow these tips.
6. Know Your Menu
Do your homework and take a peek at the menu before you go. Pre-planning your meal will make life a lot easier for you and help you to avoid temptation.
Restaurants sugar coat the words in their menu so that you don’t know exactly what you’re getting. But once you’ve got down with the lingo, you’ll be able to figure out what menu options to avoid.
For instance, anything that is Alfredo, creamed, buttery, or scalloped. Also, anything smothered, pan-fried, crispy, breaded or dipped is a big no-no.
The same applies to meats. Some cuts of meat are fattier than others. Skinless chicken breast, for example, is leaner than chicken thighs or legs.
Healthy dishes at restaurants feature compelling descriptions, such as grilled, baked, steamed, or roasted. Also, anything braised, seared, or broiled is good. These are the healthy keywords to look out for.
7. Watch Out for “Healthy” Labels
When browsing the menu, you’ll see dietary labels like paleo, sugar-free, or gluten-free. You might assume that these would make the meal a healthy choice, but that’s not always the case.
To make the food tasty, restaurants often add hidden added sugars and fats. For instance, if you eat a vegan cake, you may think it’s healthier. But they usually swap the eggs for a ton of oil, which is anything but healthy.
8. Meats and Fish
When choosing healthy dishes at restaurants, you don’t have to opt for a simple salad. Meat and fish will help you feel satisfied without filling up on carbs.
Lean meats, such as flank steak or chicken breast, are full of protein. Fish is also a healthy option as long as it’s not fried. It’s harder to overeat proteins than it is to overindulge in carbs.
9. Load Up with a Salad
Salads can be one of the most healthy dishes at restaurants. But there are sometimes hidden calories. For instance, nuts, croutons, cheese, dried fruit, grains, and fancy salad dressing can add hundreds of salads to your meal.
Don’t force yourself to only eat lettuce as you’ll be hungry again in half an hour. Make sure you’re getting some protein in your salad.
10. Double Trouble
The veggie portions in most meals are often very small. So when you order, ask for double vegetables.
If you want to add a little extra zest to your meal, why not ask for a fruit side? Superfoods like blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries can add some zing to your meal without a lot of extra sugar.
11. Don’t Be Shy
Don’t be shy to ask your waiter about the preparation of the food. If you find it out that it’s cooked with a lot of butter and salt, ask for them to prepare it without.
You might feel embarrassed asking, but that’s what your waiter is there for. Ask them what any unfamiliar words mean or ask their opinion on what the healthiest thing on the menu is. They may be able to make some great suggestions.
12. Sharing Is Caring
A sneaky way to keep portions realistic is to split your dish with a friend. This may give you the chance to try a little bit of everything without overdoing it.
You could even order a couple of appetizers as a main meal.
13. Get Saucy
Even if you order a healthy looking menu option, they may smother it with sauces and butter. It may end up being just as unhealthy as that double trouble cheeseburger you had your eye on.
Ask them to prepare your food without the butter and dressings, but to have them as a side instead.
Instead of dousing your meal with the sauce, try the fork-dip method. Dip your fork into the creamy side, then load it up with veggies. This way, you can get the taste without overindulging.
14. Skip Empty Calories
You may have ordered the healthiest dish in the restaurant, but it won’t matter if you stuff yourself with bread before the meal arrives. If it’s too tempting, ask the waiter to take it away.
Another empty calorie culprit is sweet alcoholic drinks or sodas. Avoid cocktails at all costs. They will load you up with sugar, use up all your calories, and you’ll still feel hungry afterward.
If you need an alcoholic drink, opt for a vodka and tonic or a glass of wine instead.
15. The Proof Is in the Pudding
Deserts are a no-no! Even a small piece of cake can add 400 calories or more to your meticulously planned meal. Just say no, kids!
If you have a sweet tooth, why not try sharing a dessert instead? Ask for some fruit, such as berries. Or grab some frozen yogurt on the way home as a low-calorie option.
Now you’ve picked the right healthy food restaurant with the perfect ambiance, and you’ve chosen the healthiest item on the menu. What next?
The next part is the eating! Don’t let this final hurdle trip you up. Follow the next five tips.
16. Box It Up
Up to 94 percent of restaurant meals contain 600 calories or more. That’s because even if the meal is “healthy,” the portion is way too big.
Instead of asking them to box up the leftovers, try asking them to box up half the meal before you even begin. This will keep you from overeating. It will also save you money as you can eat it for your dinner the next day.
It might look a little odd to others, but it’s a smart move for eating healthy at restaurants.
17. Keep Calm, Drink Water
Drinking water can help control your eating and ward off hunger.
This habit makes it easier for you to slow down during a meal. You’ll not only enjoy the food more, but it’ll give your stomach the chance to tell your brain it’s full before you overeat.
Some struggle with the bland taste of water, especially if they’ve got used to drinking alcohol or sugary drinks. Ask for a slice of lemon or lime to improve the taste.
18. Slow Down There
Once you’ve got your plate in front of you, it can be tempting to gobble it down. But eating quickly leads to overeating. This is because your stomach doesn’t have the chance to tell you it’s full.
Try putting down your utensils between each bite. This will give you the chance to savor each mouthful. It will also help gauge your hunger levels before you stuff yourself.
19. Don’t Compare
Keep your eyes on your own meal. Don’t compare what you’ve ordered with your friend’s dinner. We all have different nutritional needs – comparing won’t help anyone.
It’s also handy to have this mindset before ordering. Try to be the first to order. This will stop you from having an “Oh, that sounds delicious, I’ll have the same” moment.
20. A Happy Ending
When you’re finished your meal, pop a mint into your mouth. The mint will help clear your palette. This will discourage you from taking any more sneaky bites of your meal or anyone else’s leftovers.
If what’s left on your plate is tempting even after you’re full, try one of these tricks. Use a napkin to cover the alluring leftovers. Or drown it in salt so that it becomes inedible.
Plan to finish off the night with light activity, such as an evening stroll or a little dancing. You’ll not feel like ordering something too heavy as it will make you feel sluggish for your activity.
Tips for Eating Healthy and More
If you follow these tips for eating healthy, you can enjoy your restaurant experience without the guilt trip afterward.
Of course, you should try to eat healthy foods at all times. And diet goes hand in hand with an exercise regime.
Our 21 Day Body Transformation Challenge combines diet and exercise to transform your look. If you want to turn heads for the right reasons, find out more here.