When the term “restaurant” or “fast food” comes to mind, we usually think along the lines of: substantial calories, high fat, loads of sodium and a night full of bad dietary decisions that we often regret. Sometimes this results in a Saturday morning compensation run.
The possibility of going down this slippery slope and negating days of hard work in the gym and kitchen lends itself to a pattern of avoiding social outings. Despite the negative connotation at face value, eating out CAN be a part of a healthy lifestyle! Below are several tips that could be useful when trying to stay on track:
➢ Location Choice: Pick healthier places to begin with! There are restaurants that are designed specifically to deliver healthier options. They usually have organic or fresh products available. Avoid all-you-can-eat buffets!
➢ Research Beforehand: Most places have a website or brochures with detailed nutritional information on all of the food options including calories, fat, protein, carbohydrate, and sodium content. Decide what you will eat BEFORE visiting the restaurant.
➢ Pick Healthier Options: When examining the menu, look at the “under X amount of calories” section. These usually contain less fat and sodium as well. Ask for substitutions like low fat dairy instead of whole fat. However, keep in mind some foods may add sugar substitutes, such as artificial sweeteners, which isn’t much of a lesser evil.
➢ Load on veggies: Start your meal with a big salad containing various vegetables to prevent hunger, overeating and to keep you fuller for longer.
➢ Special Requests: Don’t hesitate to ASK how the foods are prepared! Be specific when ordering and ask for baked, steamed or grilled instead of fried or sautéed. Pay attention to whether or not foods have butter and avoid sauces or creams, which are high in fat and unnecessary calories.
➢ Avoid Extras: Drink water, skip the usual starter breads and appetizers, and forget the alcohol!
➢ Smaller portion sizes: Often restaurants have the “lunch size” option available. If not, share a meal with a friend to decrease the amount eaten. Another possibility is ordering an appetizer, which is usually smaller in size, as a meal.
➢ Chose fruit for dessert: These foods are healthy alternatives with natural sugars to satisfy that sweet tooth!
➢ Last Resort: When worse comes to worse, be prepared! Just in case everything doesn’t work out as planned, always pack or have nutrient dense and healthy snacks such as nuts, protein bars, or fruit in your car or purse. Failing to plan is planning to fail! Although eating out can be an alternative, it never hurts to have a back up plan.
It may come as a surprise that food locations outside of the home, even FAST food chains, have acceptable options. This guarantees there is no excuse to diverge from your health & fitness goals. With the proper knowledge and smarter decisions, you never have to miss out on memories with loved ones again!
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