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5 Tips for Healthy Restaurant Dining

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5 Tips for Healthy Restaurant Dining

Spinach salad with pomegranates being tossed in a blue bowl

Life is busy. Schedules are crazy. Sometimes you don’t want to spend that extra time in the kitchen slaving over a hot stove. It’s easier to pick up the phone and order something or dine out. We get it. There aren’t enough hours in the day! Cutting corners here and there won’t be an issue, right? Wrong. You made a promise to yourself that you would eat healthier this year. You’ve even stocked some Snack Less products to keep you from overeating. Can’t go wrong with those healthy snack bars. Don’t take the easy way out, now. That said, we aren’t telling you to abstain from take-out and restaurants altogether. It can be a nice treat when shared with family and friends. We want you to be aware of what you’re eating and to make health-conscious decisions. You can still stay the course! We have some essential tips when you decide to dine out.

1.Prepare & Plan Ahead
2.Learn the Menu
3.Choose the right Starters
4.Modify Your Meal
5.Portion Control

    1.Prepare and Plan Ahead

    Taking a little time to choose a restaurant you plan to patron can help maintain your healthy diet. When you plan ahead, you can decide what to eat before you get to the restaurant. If you’ve never been there, most restaurants have their menus online. You can scan the menu for a dish that fits your dietary regimen. That way, by the time you reach the restaurant, you won’t order anything else.

    Some people tend to hold off eating when they know they’re in for a large meal at a restaurant. However, that can lead to over eating while you’re there. Waiting for a table while you’re hungry is a surefire way to make you even more hungry than you were before. To avoid that, a good idea is to reserve a seat beforehand. Reserving isn’t for crowded, popular restaurants. It will keep you from becoming bested by your growling stomach! But don’t let yourself get too hungry. Eat your regular balanced meals throughout the day. If you want a snack make sure that it is a healthy one, such as a fitness or fruit bar.  

    On the off chance that you are not the one planning the restaurant outing, you can still be ready. If there isn't enough time to browse the menu, you'll have to learn restaurant lingo instead.

    Hands holding a menu at a table

    Menu with title Eat being held over a table

    2.Learn the Menu

    Restaurants won’t be honest and tell you that their food is laden with excessive sodium. Restaurants are now required to add sodium content (in some states) and caloric content. The average dinner contains a whopping 1,205 calories. There’s no way you can be sure what is going into your food or the ingredients used. After all, chefs want you to eat good, tasty food. To do that, they add in as much salt and butter as they want to. They don’t care about your waistline or your diet. Ordering right means you need to know the key phrases.

    Keep an eye out for words like battered, fried, dipped or crusted. These are loaded with calories and fat. Fried foods are considered unhealthy when cooked in lots of inflammatory, hydrogenated oils. However, if you’re on specific diets such as Keto, then a restaurant outing may work in your favor if you can maintain ketosis. Using heart healthy fats is a good way to maintain your diet. You do not have to avoid all trans fats, but it’s a good idea to keep them to a minimum. It’s important to choose meals based on your current dietary needs. Choose heart-healthy options when you can. Even meals that may sound healthy such as pasta with shrimp or fish may be misleading. The sauces tend to be buttery and rich, adding tons of empty calories to your plate. Make sure you watch out for such words as creamy or cream-based, decadent, and even premium. Instead, opt for broiled, steamed or grilled meals.

    While vegetables are usually a good choice, even they are often cooked in heavy sauces and too much salt. Avoid anything with a side of mashed potatoes as that can add a whopping 400 calories to your meal. No matter how good or lean the meat that goes with it, keep your side orders healthy, too.

    Avocado toast with boiled eggs

    Avocado toast on a plate with boiled eggs and sesame seeds

    3.Choose the Right Starters

    When you first sit down at your table your server will bring you a bread basket of some kind. Refuse this complimentary service as it only adds more empty calories to your meal. Bread, chips and other baskets do not provide any nutritional value. Ask if they have an alternative, such as a plate of vegetables. If you still want something before your meal, bring a small back up. A few healthy snack alternatives in your bag might work. Grab a fitness bar that will keep you from munching on the bread basket.           

    As for actual appetizers on the menu, some of them can actually be healthier. Anything with vegetables or lean proteins, like fish, could serve as a good meal alone. Avoid items labeled as "platters". These appetizers are heavily fried: such as mozzarella sticks, onion rings or chicken wings. Though they might sound tasty, you want to stick to your regimen. Persevere through the temptation! Choose a salad or a broth-based soup. A research study shows that participants who ate a broth-based soup before their meal ate less on average. That’s one way to keep yourself from overeating.

    4.Modify Your Meal

    Once upon a time, asking your server to alter any meal on the menu was akin to asking them to move Mount Everest. Chefs did not want to make any changes. Nowadays that's not an issue. Restaurants are keener to dietary restrictions to keep their consumers happy. If you see an otherwise healthy meal that's loaded with thick sauce, ask them to hold it. Likewise, don't be afraid to ask for specifics on how the meal was prepared. Asking to hold the oil or keeping your meal ‘dry’ will keep your meal low-calorie.

    Waiter holding out two appetizer plates

    Waiter holding out a white plate of salad and a white plate of appetizers

    5.Portion Control

    When you first order your meal, ask for a to-go box. This way, when your meal arrives, you can put half into the take-out container, so it is no longer on your plate. You can also ask your server to do so. Restaurants offer portion sizes that are much too large. One meal can be well over your recommended caloric intake for the entire day! There is a reason why McDonald's is no longer able to add a 'super-size' option to its menus. You might tell yourself that you will only eat half of the meal when it is placed in front of you. Unfortunately, our will power is quite weak when we are hungry. That's why it's important to eat well-balanced meals throughout the day. You won't be famished by the time you arrive at the restaurant!

    Another good rule of thumb: put down the fork! Add to the conversation at your table. It will stop you from eating too fast and give you pause. Your brain will be able to process when you are no longer hungry. This will ensure that you don't overeat.

    Package of diet gum between fruit bowls

    Package of gum between granola and fruit bowls on a table

    A Healthier You

    Keeping all this in mind, eating healthier doesn't mean you can't indulge from time to time. If you decide that you're craving something outside of your dietary regiment, order it once in a while. Just make sure you don't overdo it and keep the portion size to a minimum. You might realize that just half of what you're craving is more than enough to sate you. There is always the 80/20 rule to dieting that you can follow. If you eat clean and lean 80% of the time, then 20% of your diet can be junk food. For the majority of the time, though, you'll have Snack Less to help you out. Whether you decide on our fruit bars or gums, they're made with the all-natural Hoodia parviflora to keep you satisfied longer. Eating healthy might seem like a difficult task with all the temptations. Following our tips and limiting your exposure to junk will keep you on the right track.