No matter how hard you try, you will eventually find yourself face to face with a restaurant menu and choices to make. Buffalo wings or burger? Pizza or pasta? Sorbet or tiramisu? And unfortunately it seems that restaurants are out to fool us with healthy sounding dishes acting as calorie bombs in disguise, just waiting to blow up our gut and thighs. While eating healthy while dining out can be challenging, it can be done by following these tips to avoid a dining out disaster.
Appetizers are nothing more than an opportunity to add more calories to your meal. Trust me, that 4 pound plate of pasta, side salad and Diet Coke that comes after your appetizer will be enough to fill you up. If you must order appetizers, consider making a meal out of them. Often times a couple appetizers shared between two can be enough for a meal.
Same goes for side dishes. You can often make a great meal by ordering a la carte from the side dish menu – and you will most likely save a few dollars as well. A great option is a baked potato with a side of steamed vegetables. You can even indulge a little by adding bacon and sour cream to the potato, because overall, you are still eating fairly well.
When in doubt, adopt this mantra – a piece (one!) of bread from the bread basket, a split dessert or a cocktail. One or none. Never should all three or two be a part of your dining out experience.
The ability of some restaurant chefs to take a bowl full of vegetables and turn them into a diet disaster just astounds me. Just because you are ordering a salad that doesn’t mean you are eating healthy. You already know to ask for the dressing on the side, but you should also only use half of that side of dressing. You would be surprised how far a little bit of dressing goes when you take the time to toss the salad really well. Also, avoid calorie laden salad add-ins such as: cured meats (think salami, prosciutto, pepperoni – basically anything that ends in a vowel), bacon, cheeses, fried meats and croutons (I’m addicted to croutons, by the way). Don’t forget – even if your salad is healthy, it doesn’t mean that the butter and garlic slathered quarter-loaf of french bread served with it, is.
Read the menu descriptions and look for the words such as: grilled, steamed or baked. Also, look for entrees that come with no sauce. If it comes with a sauce make sure it is vegetable, broth or white wine based. Don’t even go there with cream, cheese or gravy.
If you find yourself at a steakhouse or an awesomely authentic barbeque joint, it is okay to order a fatty cut of meat such as a rib eye or ribs, as long as you make sure that the rest of your plate is vegetables, preferably steamed or fruit. The point is, you can indulge in one item as long as the rest of your meal is balanced. And no, a diet Coke is not considered a part of balancing the meal.
If you are at an Italian joint, order the pasta, but only eat half of it. I have yet to find a restaurant that only gives you one serving of pasta.
The best thing you can do before going out to eat is to check the restaurant’s website for nutritional information, if available. You may just find that a dish that you thought was healthy, actually is not. Or, seeing the true calorie count of a dish before you eat it may be enough to deter you from eating it. At the very least, by researching the nutritional information, you may discover a few items that you can order, which will make it easier to make a good choice when you are at the restaurant. Dining out and not ruining all your hard work is doable, it just takes a little planning on your part.