When you eat at home, you know what you’re getting.
Head to a restaurant, and it’s another story.
The ingredients, method of preparation, and portion size can easily add excess calories to your diet.
Restaurant menus have so many choices and are often full of unfamiliar terms. Is a food fried or baked? Does it come with a sauce or dressing? If you’re not careful, you won’t know answers to these questions and more until you ask them.
Before heading out to dinner tonight, here are some tips to enjoy a healthy meal.
So Many Options
When considering what to choose from dozens of options, you can easily become overwhelmed. Just as easy is to be tempted by the unhealthy choices. Thankfully, most restaurants these days include healthy options on their menus and label them accordingly.
For your main course, choose chicken, turkey, ham, or fish over beef. If it comes with a sauce, avoid creamy or cheesy sauces and go with a tomato or vegetable sauce.
Additionally, try to include a salad, fruit, or steamed vegetable, and go sparingly on dressings, cheese, salt, and butter. Instead of chips, fries, or fried rice, choose boiled rice or potatoes.
Need some extra seasoning? Leave the salt and butter alone. Instead, reach for some fresh herbs or lemon. And if the meal comes with bread, choose a whole-grain option and go with a sherbet, sorbet, or fresh fruit if you can’t say no to dessert.
Menus are often vague when it comes to the way the food is prepared. If you’re not sure or the menu doesn’t say how the food is prepared, be sure to ask.
Remember—restaurant foods are full of fats, as fats help keep the food moist and yummy.
To play it safe and to avoid excess fat, choose foods that are grilled, boiled, steamed, stir-fried, or poached instead of fried, baked, or battered. Also, take control of your food destiny by asking that your meal be prepared with olive oil instead of butter or other fats.
When your salad arrives, opt for oil and vinegar rather than dressing. Or have your dressing on the side so you can limit the amount you use.
Terms to watch for include “lightly breaded,” “wrap,” “baked,” and “viniagrette.” These may all sound healthy but may are deceiving.
Foods that are lightly breaded are often deep-fried. A wrap may sound like a good option, but two slices of bread may have fewer calories than a 10-inch tortilla. Baked sounds better than fried, but it could possibly mean the food is baked deep-dish style and contains high-fat, creamy ingredients. While baked salmon is a good choice, baked lasagna is high in fat. And though vinaigrette dressing sounds healthier than a cream based dressing, it is mostly oil, so order it on the side.
Not only do portions keep getting bigger, so do the plates that hold them! With so much food sitting in front of you, it is sometimes hard to resist the temptation to eat it all—especially when you paid so much for it.
To avoid the temptation to eat unhealthily large portions, split or share the entree, then choose a soup, salad, or extra side. If you know you’ll get too much food, go ahead and ask for a to-go box when you order. That way you can divide the food as soon as you get it, so you won’t have to stare at the extra food as you eat.
Know What to Look For
Knowing what to look for on a menu and what to avoid will help you choose healthier, low-fat options. If you find that your diet is lacking fruits, vegetables, or whole grains when you eat out, make up for it when you eat your other meals at home.
Remember that healthy eating is only half of the battle when it comes to losing weight.
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