Eating healthy when dining can be a scary task for those of you looking to start a healthy lifestyle. Cooking at home means knowing EXACTLY what is going into your food. But when at a restaurant, you never know what your food is being cooked in or how much of anything they are giving you. Not to mention portions are usually way larger and it is so hard to stop yourself and get a to-go box, right?! Here I am sharing with you my tips for eating healthy when dining out as well as the best places to find healthy choices when in a crunch…aka FAST FOOD. But just to be serious, good food is not fast or cheap.
Eating out is totally going to break your diet and you are going to spiral out of control and start eating everything in sight because once you eat one meal off track you are doomed….not. There are a lot of bad vibes and stigma around going out to eat while “dieting”. Yuck, I don’t even like the word dieting. But, it’s true. Whenever we want to lose weight or get healthy we automatically fear eating out or gatherings where the food offered is out of our control. Let’s stop that. Food is food, not matter where it is coming from. Obviously organic and local is best, but when it comes down to it lettuce is still lettuce and chocolate is still chocolate. Which means, we just need to focus on making smart choices. If you wouldn’t make deep fried chicken fingers at home, why would you need to order them when going out for dinner? You don’t.
Let’s wrap our minds around the fact that food is not the enemy here. The enemy when eating out is our mindset. We convince ourselves we are “screwed” and that there is nothing we can do, when in reality it is just food being served by someone else. Once we have the mindset down that eating out can be just as healthy as eating at home, when do mindfully, then we can start focusing on HOW we can eat healthy when dining out.
I also want you to know that it is okay to modify things. Restaurants are getting a lot better about specialty ordering (I would know, I do it every where I go). So feel free to modify and change things where you want to, don’t be afraid to be a pain in the butt for both the restaurants or the people you’re with. If the people you surround yourself truly care, they won’t judge you for being a little picky. And if they do, let them. YOU are making the choice to live healthier. And if you do it right you won’t need to follow the crowd through “cheat meals”, “it’s the weekend”, “treat yourself”, “just this once”, “live a little”, mindsets! Here are my tips for eating healthy when dining out!
I do this 9/10 times when I go out to eat. This ensures there is something that I am able to eat. Not just due to my food intolerances, but also the fact that I want to enjoy my dinner and not sit down feeling discouraged because I don’t actually want anything on the menu. Yes, this obviously takes some extra time that people don’t have, but it can be totally worth it!
Surprising, I know. But most restaurants add so much stuff to their salads that they can actually end up being higher in calories than most other dinners. Check out the ingredients, if there is cheese/eggs/avocado/meat/nuts/fruit on it…that’s a lot. Opt for toppings that are mostly veggies with a few other tasteful bits. You can ALWAYS ask to remove items from the salad as well. Get your dressing on the side, most restaurants give you 2-3 servings if they put it on top. When picking a dressing, remember that oil based dressings will be the best as they are usually loaded with healthy fats. Creamy dressings are usually high in sugar (learn how sugar is wrecking your progress here) and artificial ingredients.
Obviously the menu isn’t going to shout HIGH IN CALORIES at you, so you have to do some investigating. Things like creamy, buttery, stuffed, breaded, savory are all going to mean loooootsa calories. You want to opt for things that are in wine sauces, sautéed (ask for them in oil instead of butter), broiled, roasted, reduction etc. These things are going to be a lot lower in calories. You can ALWAYS ask to modify your order too. Ask for oil instead of butter, ask for no sauce, ask for things on the side. Restaurants are starting to take allergies a lot seriously now, so there are usually no questions about it.
A lot of times we tend to get to restaurants when we are STARVING to death. This is obviously going to cause us to overeat. First off, skip the appetizer. This is just going to cause you to overeat because you will fill up on the appetizer and then stuff yourself with your dinner because who orders dinner and doesn’t eat any of it? Also, really decide how hungry you are. Maybe you actually order an appetizer or a side as your meal instead of a full entree. We are more likely to continue eating if there is more food in-front of us. So, if we don’t order it we can’t eat it. When choosing a side, opt for a vegetable or salad. That way you have already partially filled yourself up on healthy options before devouring the main meal. Besides, having both a bun on a sandwich AND fries/chips is a lot of empty calories!
I love this one! Get a to-go box right away and put half of your meal in it. That way, you only have a limited amount of food on your plate and you won’t feel the need to stuff yourself full. By doing this you eliminate the mindless eating that happens between you being done and when your plate is actually picked up by the server. Plus, added bonus that you have now made 2 meals out of one! If you decide there is not enough food to get full and take home, I also like to cover my food with my napkin when I am done. That way I know I won’t just keep eating because it is sitting there.
I know this is not always an option for people, but when you can, choose a nicer restaurant. This ensures that the ingredients are high quality and that the portions won’t be massive. Have you ever compared the size of a meal from a bar to a sit down restaurant…it’s insane. Just because it is a nice place doesn’t mean it has to be over the top. You can find lunch spots that are healthy, natural, vegan, paleo without breaking the bank. Plus, if it comes down to how much your lunch costs and how much doctor bills cost when you get sick….it doesn’t even compare. My biggest tip is to find a restaurant that is NOT a chain. These people take pride in their food/ingredients and want to offer you the best possible experience!
As someone who is constantly on the go from weekend to weekend, I understand that sometimes you gotta eat fast food. That is totally okay. But you must still be smart about it. I always try to give myself as many options as possible. So if I am driving I will give myself a few exit options before choosing the best one. If you are rushed for time between meetings or appointments, try to pick the best option near you or even call in food to a restaurant. Since I know it is America and I know fast food exists, I wanted to share my healthiest fast food joints and menu options for you!
Obviously these are everywhere, and are a decent option when in a crunch! I always get a salad or the flat bread because it is less dense and I can fill it with more veggies! Stay away from any of the pre-mixed meats or the cold-cut as they are full of either extra calorie sauces or a bunch of crappy nitrates! Be careful with your sauces as well!
Grilled Chicken cool wrap
Grilled Chicken Sandwich (no sauce)
Grilled Market salad (dressing and nuts on side)
Any of the salads with dressing on the side. Always skip the bread bowl! Just beware of things having too many ingredients, although delicious it can add up fast!
I always get a burrito bowl with lettuce as the base! Add salsa for a low calorie topping, get your guac on the side and skip the cheese sauce!
These are just a few options for you! My tip is to SKIP anything like McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, Hardees whenever you can. Places like Wendys, Arbys, Culvers, Jimmy Johns, Potbelly are going to be better options! There is always something healthy(ish) you can order.
A few things:
• Always get salad dressing on the side
• Get meats grilled instead of crispy
• Skip the specialty drinks
• You don’t need “the meal deal” skip the fries/hash browns/chips
NO more fearing restaurant meals or eating on the go! You can do this, healthy is a lifestyle! And if learning more about counting macros would help you feel more on track, try it out! For more healthy tips, tricks, workouts subscribe to my newsletter!