Tips for everything from choosing a restaurant and smart ordering.
You know the drill: you’re out at lunch with a friend at a popular new restaurant trying to find a nutritious and tasty option amidst all of the delicious-sounding, less-than-healthy temptations.
It shouldn’t be so hard to find healthy options when dining out. Here’s a step-by-step plan to make it a little easier.
Step 1: Choose Carefully
Do a little research before committing to a restaurant. Check out the online menus of a few different places, so you can leisurely comb over the options without distractions. Look for a restaurant that offers three-to-four healthy dishes that appeal to you to ensure you can find something you’ll enjoy, no matter what you’re in the mood for that day. This also gives you an opportunity to do any research you want to about nutritional facts.
Tip: If you’re the pickiest eater of the group, offer up your suggestions or volunteer to make the reservation.
Step 2: Consider Quality
When it comes to meat and produce, the closer you can get to the source, the better. This is why we have seen such a surge in the local food and farm-to-table trends in recent years. If you can find out beforehand where a restaurant gets their meat and produce, do so. You’ll feel better about your choice.
Cramped fish farms are notorious bacteria breeding grounds and cause a need for antibiotic use, according to a recent New York Times article. While the article also points out that some farms are much more sustainable than others, it’s best to avoid farmed fish unless you know a farm’s specific standards.
Tip: When it comes to selecting a meat or fish-centric dish, look for key phrases like organic, grass-fed, free-range, pasture-farmed or wild-caught. For fruits and vegetables, organic is best.
Step 3: Opt for Simple
Skip breaded and fried entrees in favor of grilled or roasted options. Look for main courses that feature meat or vegetables that are cooked to highlight their true flavors with herbs and spices, rather than smothered in butter, cheese or cream which overpower the true taste.
Tip: While that roasted chicken with garlic brown butter sauce sounds delectable, save yourself the calories and ask to have the sauce served on the side, rather than smothering the meal. You can still have a little taste by spooning a small amount on your meal.
Step 4: Order Smart
If you feel put on the spot by the waiter who’s staring at you and waiting for your order, you might be led to make bad food decisions. Here are some healthy ordering tips.
Halve the portion size: The majority of American restaurants serve such large portions of food that a single entree could easily be split into two or three full meals. Whether you split a main course with your lunch date or ask to have half of it wrapped up to go as soon as it’s served, decide on a plan before your food arrives tempting you to clean the plate.
Skip the fat-free options: Many fat-free foods are loaded with sugars, flour, thickeners and other additives to make up for the lack of flavor. We need to eat fat — specifically medium-chain triglycerides — to lose fat. So don’t get bogged down by all the fat-free, low-fat options the menu has to offer.
Don’t worry about gluten: “Gluten-free” has become a hot catchphrase in the health and culinary worlds in recent years. However, unless you have been diagnosed with Celiac disease or another form of gluten intolerance, adopting a gluten-free diet could be depriving you of the fiber, minerals and vitamins that whole grains are excellent at providing, according to Scientific American.
Step 5: Eat Slow
Eating should be about the company you’re with and the nutritious food you’re consuming. It shouldn’t be a race to inhale everything on your plate.
It takes about 20 minutes for your body to relay the message to your brain that it’s full. This means it’s easy to eat past this point, consuming more calories than you actually need. Eating slow can help prevent this from happening, as well as aid in digestion.
Tip: Order something you can’t possibly eat fast — like hot soup or a gamey meat dish. Or, practice by counting 20 chews for each bite before swallowing. It’s tedious at first but soon, it’ll just come as habit.