And let me tell you, all these cities have had some AMAZING food. When we lived in NYC, going out for dinner with friends was way of life — and the pizza was TO DIE FOR. In Charlotte, Nik had a love of all the BBQ joints, and in Minne there was some amazing all-American grub — and here in LA I am obsessed with the Korean food scene, and of course, the all of the Mexican food! That being said, it can make things hard when trying to be health conscious.
Since I’ve lived in so many tasty cities around the country, I have learned a thing or two about staying on track while still enjoying all that my cities have had to offer. So I want to share with you some of my favorite tips for eating healthy while out with friends.
There is no reason not to be social when trying to be healthy, what fun would that be?! Life is all about BALANCE.
Tips for Eating Healthy at Restaurants
Plan Ahead – This a BIG one. Knowing that you are going to eat out will help you better prepare to stay on track. If you know where you’ll be eating, you can usually find the menu online beforehand. This is especially important when you are starving and tempted to order half the menu. You can go in knowing what healthy dish you will order rather than letting your eyes and stomach make the decision for you. Having a plan will make it easier to stick to your nutrition goals. Also knowing you will be going out to eat, you may even opt to have a small healthy snack before leaving for the restaurant, that way you are not insanely hungry, which can lead to bad decisions.
WATER, WATER, WATER – Immediately order water and drink as much of it as possible before any food comes to the table. Drinking water before and during your meal will help fill up your stomach so that you don’t eat as much. Many times when you feel “hungry” you’re really just slightly dehydrated. Try drinking some water, you may find that you aren’t so hungry after all.
Avoid The Fruity, Pretty Drink Specials – Skipping alcohol all together may not be an option and you may not want to! But be careful when it comes to those fruity, sweet drink concoctions they always tell you about as their specials. Choose a red or white wine, or a vodka and tonic water with a lime. For example a glass of white wine has on average 120 calories whereas a Long Island Iced Tea has as many as 430!
Fight Temptation – It is customary for many restaurants to serve bread and butter to start. Depending on the group you’re with, you can politely ask the server not to bring any out before they even have the chance. This will completely destroy the temptation to have a “nibble” of that fresh baked bread. If you are with a group who may not be as health conscious as you are, simply pass the bread basket to the next person and say “I’m not in the mood for that”. Saying something like “I can’t eat that” automatically makes your brain want it even more. If you want to munch on something ask the server for some hummus and veggies. Or if your out for Mexican, ask for raw veggies with your guacamole rather than tortilla chips.
Always start with a Salad – Fill up of healthy greens before you get your meal and you could save major calories, just make sure it is an ACTUAL salad or you won’t be doing any good here. A salad with only vegetables and fruits, avoid the cheeses and meats, croutons and thick dressings. Use oil and vinegar as a dressing and ASK FOR IT ON THE SIDE. Use only what you need, even try dipping your fork in the dressing before picking up your lettuce.
Don’t Load up on Carbs – Instead choose a lean piece of meat such as chicken breast or fish that is grilled or broiled. You can even ask the chef to prepare it with little or no oil. I have made that request before and they are able to season everything wonderfully without any of the added calories. Make sure you steer clear of anything with the words: creamy, breaded, crispy, sautéed, stuffed or gravies. Foods prepared these ways are usually full of oils, butter, or cream. Instead look for STEAMED, GRILLED, or BROILED.
Don’t Eat everything but the kitchen sink! – I have a HUGE appetite. I could easily down and entire plate full of food and not even flinch. But restaurant servings are much bigger than what a real serving size should be. You can always ask for a to-go box as soon as your meal arrives and put half in the box right away and put it out of sight.
Last and NOT LEAST (it’s another biggie!)…
BE ASSERTIVE. – Most people are more health conscious these days. So ALWAYS ask the server to substitute or change something to make it what you want. Trust me, they get it all the time! ASK for extra veggies instead of mashed potatoes, ASK for no oils or fats, ASK how things are prepared. If you don’t ask, then nothing can or will be changed.
Hope you find these helpful! Do you have any good tips on eating out?