Big thanks to Elizabeth for reaching out to me! This post is great for anyone who is looking for a few easy ways to get their diet back on track for the new year. Enjoy!
I don’t know about you, but I eat out a lot. It is not because I am lazy or don’t know how to cook. I am just tired. Worn out. Down to the dregs. By the time I finish my everyday activities cooking dinner sounds like the last thing I want to do. Although I have gotten better at cooking for myself, by planning meals ahead of time, cooking a bunch and freezing it, or using the crock pot, I still end up eating out far more than is really healthy. Not to mention those unpalatable microwave lunch meals. No thank you.
Why is eating out often so bad for you? Well, unlike in your own kitchen you can’t control what goes into your dishes. Many restaurants and, even worse, fast food joints add in tons of unnecessary fats, calories and other unhealthy ingredients to your food. From butter and margarine to heavy oils, tons of salt, MSG, and meat byproducts you never know what you are putting in your mouth. Plus you tend to eat more because of the huge servings on large plates that you get. Not to mention that vegetables are not high on the list of tasty restaurant meals. However there are a few ways that you can eat healthy even when you do eat out. Here are some helpful tips:
Skip the Fast Food – Whoa, I just came back from lunch and do I regret it. Greasy fast food pizza is not a healthy meal! Actually, fast food of any kind is a good thing to avoid. Although some fast food places are catching on to healthier options, the actual fast food lifestyle is one that is worse for you. Munching down in your car encourages overeating for one. For another, even healthy options can be secretly loaded with unhealthy things. That fake fruit flavoring in your parfait, the high fat dressings and fake cheeses on your salad, and the calorie laden dip for your apple slices all add up fast. You are better off picking a nice sit down restaurant for your meal and being in better control over what you choose to eat. I love that vegetarian and locally grown restaurants are catching on big in some parts. That is a great way to get a healthier meal without having to pack your own lunch.
Ask For Info – Another good tip is to ask for information about the menu. Many restaurants, especially chain ones, have a handy calorie and ingredient guide on call. Not only does that help people who have allergies, but it also helps you to see what options are actually healthy and what ones are not. You can also ask the waiter about healthier options like lighter sauces, steamed vegetables and smaller portions. Many restaurants are willing to work with people to help them to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle.
Half to Go – Speaking of portions an easy trick I picked up to limit my portion sizes is to ask if half my meal can be boxed up before it is served to me. That way I never even see the whole thing and can’t be tempted to overindulge. At most places you eat even half a plate can be more than enough. This way you also have another meal later which drastically reduces your costs! If that is not your cup of tea then before you take your first bite separate your food. Draw a little line cutting it in half and do not go over it. It takes some training, but eventually it will come as second nature.
Pay Attention –One big obstacle to controlling how much you eat is how much attention you are paying to what you eat. The television is a terrible disadvantage to healthy eating. You are distracted and tend to eat far more because you are not paying attention. Remember that satisfied is full, not stuffed. When you slow down, chew well and pay attention you will find that you eat less and enjoy it more. Even eating with friends helps your diet. Because you are talking instead of stuffing your face it takes you longer and therefore your body has time to understand that it is full and let you know.
Vegetables First – I know the bread and chips that come before the meal can be tempting, especially when you are super hungry, but try to not indulge too much in those. They tend to be full of junk carbs and fat. Instead, eat your veggies first. As the salad course is usually the first to arrive anyway this is usually easy to do. However it goes beyond salads (watch out for dressings and toppings) when your entrée comes you should try to eat the lowest calorie things first. Items like sides are usually the best as you can pick things like steamed broccoli and carrots, grilled vegetables, or cut fresh fruit. That way you fill up on those instead of packing in the meat and potatoes andthen being too full to eat anything with actual nutrients.
No Starvation – Speaking of packing it in, try not to be starving to death when you go out to eat. I know you have to wait in line and so on, but if you can try to eat a small snack earlier on so you will be less tempted to chow down on the rolls before your meal even arrives. You make better food decisions when you are not so hungry too. Just think about what you really want to eat when you are not hungry and then it is easier to make wise choices when you are. A good tip to maintain your weight overall is to eat small meals throughout the day. That keeps you from getting too hungry and indulging all at once and also helps to keep your blood sugar levels stable and your brain focused.
Skip Dessert – My family loves dessert. They feel that no meal is complete without it. However that is certainly not true. Skipping the sweets can save you a lot of unnecessary calories. If you just feel like you have to have something sweet, then go for fresh fruit. It has sugar, yes, but it also has vitamins and nutritional value. If that is not available then offer to split something with another person in your group. Even just a bite can satisfy your sweet tooth and not add too many calories.
Drink Water – Last but not least watch what you drink. Many of us have great eating habits but our drinking is what packs on the pounds. Wine and beer are full of empty carbs and loaded with toxins your body has to process out. Not to mention the sugar loaded sodas and juices we imbibe in too. Skip all that and go for just plain water. Not only is it calorie free but it makes your body and brain feel and work better. You are probably not drinking enough water as it is. Choose water with your meals and you will see the difference. In fact if you guzzle a cup of water before you eat you can eat less and feel fuller faster.
As you can see it is not impossible to eat out in a healthy way. Choose your food carefully and you will be able to manage your weight and get the nutrition you need to thrive. Happy and healthy eating!
Elizabeth Reed is a freelance writer and a resident blogger at Liveinnanny.org. She particularly enjoys writing about parenting, childcare, health and wellness. In addition, she is an expert consultant on issues related to household management and kids.