Whether you’re traveling or simply going out for the night, plan to stick to your diet routine at restaurants. Since you have less control when someone else is preparing your food, you’ll need to be diligent about selecting the right items and controlling portions.
Here are some tips to keep you on track:
1. Select a suitable restaurant. Casual or full service, you’ll want to make sure your destination has options that fit your eating plan. Unless it’s a salad bar, skip all-you-can-eat buffets which prompt guests to fill up and take more than they need. Shared plates or tapas style restaurants are fine with a group so long as you order a couple of vegetable dishes.
See our article Dietitian Suggestions for Healthy Fast Food Options for drive-thru advice.
2. Peruse the menu ahead of time. Look at menu options online and make a decision before going to a restaurant where the atmosphere and aroma might lead you astray. Perhaps keep your favorite restaurants’ to-go menus at the ready to browse at a moment’s notice. If you can’t see the choices ahead of time before arriving, pause and take a moment to really look at the full menu.
3. Notice key descriptors. Look for clues that less fat was used in cooking such as grilled, poached baked or roasted proteins. Avoid crispy or breaded items that are probably fried. Savory listings may be higher in sodium. And it goes without saying that rich, decadent and indulgent descriptors are red flags for high calories!
4. Order carefully. You have a better chance to stick to your plans if you aren’t influenced by what others are having, so order first. Take note of side dishes offered elsewhere on the menu, so you can ask for healthier substitutions.
5. Skip the extras. You’ve been eating well up to this point, right? So you don’t need the bread, rolls or tortilla chips brought to the table. You can even ask the server not to leave any. If your table mates want you to indulge in appetizers and desserts, politely decline, unless it’s strictly fruit or vegetables.
6. Limit portions. One strategy is to ask for take-home box to be brought when your meal is served. Place half your food inside and put it aside. Skip the free refills, which make it tempting to ‘get your money’s worth,’ or you might pay a far higher price in extra calories and have difficulty maintaining your weight. Savor your food by chewing slowly, and you’ll find it’s easier to eat less.
This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.