Tips on Eating Out at Restaurants

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One of the biggest struggles a lot of us face when trying to keep a healthy lifestyle is eating out at restaurants. I mean, I get it- there are so many options (hello pasta plate), we are usually being social, the portion sizes are too big, there are too many ingredients we don’t know about, and let’s not get started on the decision of alcohol and DESSERTS.

Anyways, it can be a little over-whelming. So we either go one of two ways- we just DON’T because we don’t know how to handle it, or we go and we just splurge on everything we see. So here are a few tips I’ve practiced that seem to keep me on track, while still enjoying things I want to enjoy.

  1. PLAN AHEAD

If I know where I’m going out to eat, I’ll immediately pull up the menu to choose my options ahead of time. Because what usually happens? We tend to not eat prior to the meal, we get there and we are STARVING, so we only want literally the worst thing on the menu- sound familiar? So beforehand, I’ll make sure to pick out something that’s going to satisfy me, but I know that I won't regret getting later.

It also gives me time to figure out if I should ask for substitutions. For example, if I get a chicken plate with heavy cream sauce, can I make sure I ask for that sauce on the side or just not at all? You’d be surprised how accommodating most restaurants are nowadays. If they give you any flack for it, tell them it’s because of an allergy and they usually won’t blink an eye. HA- I mean, a girl’s gotta do what a girls gotta do. Tons of my clients will just send me a snapshot of the menu for me to help choose for them. Trust me, the more you ASK, the more you can learn for yourself later on.

2. DON’T STARVE YOURSELF BEFORE YOUR MEAL.

Like I said above, we all do it. We want to enjoy ourselves, so maybe I’ll feel better if I just skip meals before it. This couldn’t be a worse option. When we “skip meals”, our blood sugar tends to rise, our metabolism slows, and we tend to make some nooooot good choices when the time actually comes to eat- sound familiar? So before I leave the house, I’ll usually snack on a few almonds just to curb my appetite a little bit and slide past those ravenous decisions.

3. SPLURGE ON THE SALAD, NOT THE SANGRIA.

Don’t worry- this is definitely not a section where I tell you not to have a glass or two of alcohol. What I mean though is that we all tend to order all of the fruity, calorie-dense drinks first, without food, and not only are we consuming empty calories, but that probably leads to eating more later (hello, bread basket). A practice I have is to make sure I order some sort of veggie as a starter, ideally a big salad, but if they don’t have anything that looks good or is a little pricey, check out the side dishes! Most restaurants now have some sort of vegetable as a side, which I’ve asked them to bring out as an appetizer for me. It’s usually cheaper and more basic, so you don’t have to worry about all the extra ingredients that go along with it. Save your money and your calories on those crazy cocktails and use it on something that will help you feel better.

4. DON’T BE AFRAID TO BE EXTRA

I talk about this a lot, but people don’t usually believe me. Nobody should be AFRAID or ASHAMED to change their orders around a little bit. Like I said in the first tip, think of small areas of a meal that can save you a lot in the long run. There are tons of examples, but I’ll give you a few more- I was out to dinner last night at Barcelona Wine Bar and ordered the hummus. It usually comes with pitas, but we just asked if we could do half pita and half veggies. No, that wasn’t on the menu, but they made it work and brought us carrots and celery- so easy! Another idea is that if your main meal comes with mashed potatoes and veggies, see if they could do a baked potato, or in my case, double up on veggies. I probably already had something carb-based at the meal anyways so I don’t need to splurge on it all. Like I said, you’re the customer. I very rarely come up with issues ordering with these questions, and as long as you ask nicely and are flexible with options, you’ll be so much happier you did.

5. TAPAS FOR EVERYONE

One thing Justin and I do a lot of when we eat out is SPLIT almost everything. It’s the time of the tapas now, which I love, so it’s good to sample out a few things. Where we can get in trouble is ordering drinks, appetizers, a full meal, and dessert, which can be A TON of food. Plus, the portion sizes nowadays are insane. And let’s be real for a second, I would love to put half of my meal in a to-go box before I start eating it, but when it’s all right in front of me that doesn’t always work. Again, baby steps. So I tend to ask the person with me what they have their eye on, if we could both get something nutritious to snack on before the meal, we will fill up a little from that, and then we can splurge a little bit on the bigger meal if we know we won’t be eating the entire thing. Plus, talk about saving some money!

EC- 6. DRINK WARM WATER BEFORE AND AFTER THE MEAL

This is going back to years and years ago from Aryuvedic practices, but it’s been proven that warm water with lemon helps speed up the digestive process during a meal, but ice cold water can actually slow it down. If you are consuming alcohol, ask for a side of warm water with lemon to drink in between, and then try to wait as long as you can until after the meal to drink again. That way your body can digest the food properly without having to deal with that and water at the same time.

How to Choose Healthy Meals

When it comes to actually choosing the best option, it can be super overwhelming. I want to break down just a few things that may help you pick some of the better choices when your looking over the menu!

  1. basic is better

A lot of the time when you look at meals, there are tons of toppings and sides. All of those need ingredients and just extra unnecessary calories. So when I’m looking for a meal, I do try to shoot for something a little simple- salmon, asparagus, and rice, or chicken, baked potato, and veggies, or pasta with protein, veggies and a LIGHT sauce, etc. Remember you can always ask for alternatives, to put something on the side (dressings and sauces are a big one!), or just get rid of something all together.

2. WHERE’S MY PROTEIN, CARB, AND VEGGIE?

When I’m looking at a meal, I make sure to have those 3 things on my plate or at some point during the meal. If I don’t, I just need to change something up or have something additional. Those 3 things give you a well-rounded meal and will keep you fuller, longer. However, if I opted for the breadbasket or a carb-heavy appetizer, could I sub my carb side for something like more veggies? Chances are, I probably have gotten plenty as it is and it will help from feeling full afterwards.

3. WATCH OUT FOR CREAMY FOODS & SAUCES

This is one that a lot of us don’t tend to notice very often, but they can be empty calories and super easy to consume. Anything like these are probably made with heavy cream, milk, extra butter, or mayo- and not that I’m fully against those- but really in smaller amounts and not mixed into large meals. This is an easy way so slash out 200-400 calories off your meal. Like I said before, don’t think you need to completely get rid of it, just ask for “light” sauce or put it on the side so you’re in charge of how much actually goes into your meal. Chances are, much less than what they normally use. This tip also goes for pre-made sides like potato salad, egg salad, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, etc!

So that’s it! Going out to eat doesn’t need to be super intimidating as long as you know ahead of time what your plan of action is and being able to make your order YOUR ORDER.

Have any other tips and tricks? Comment them below!

Halle HillmanComment