Elizabeth Finch
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4 Tips For Eating Healthy When Dining Out

Posted by on Jul 11, 2017 in All Lifestyle, Featured, Travel + City Guides | 0 comments

Elizabeth Finch


I truly prefer to eat as many of my meals as possible at home.

In doing so, I know that I’m eating foods that I’ve prepared with the freshest organic produce and ingredients that I trust. And, I put a huge amount of love and heart into the food as I prepare it for myself and my family to eat.

To be clear, eating meals that we’ve prepared ourselves is absolutely the healthiest choice. There’s no question what’s in the food that we’ve prepared ourselves, and restaurant portions are also way too big and we all tend to overeat because of that. (Especially if there’s a bottomless chip bowl in front of us. No bueno!)

But every now and again, it’s just kind of fun to eat out, let someone else do all the work, and enjoy trying new flavors and dishes.

So t is it possible to eat a meal out and still stay on track with our health and weight loss/weight management goals? Absolutely it is, with a little forethought and these helpful tips.

4 Tips For Eating Healthy When Dining Out

1. Scan the menu beforehand, if you aren’t familiar with the restaurant.

I recommend taking a quick look at the menu online before you get to the restaurant, if you aren’t familiar with the restaurant. If you have the option to choose the restaurant, be sure to pick a place that has healthier options that you can work with.

You can always modify a dish, but if everything on the menu is fried or loaded down with heavy, cream based sauces, you’ll obviously have a harder time modifying. I have a handful of restaurants in the city where I live that are my go-to’s, and I know there are healthier options for me there. If we make plans to meet others for dinner, I’ll suggest one of those.

2. Build a balanced plate.

Loading your plate with fresh veggies is always the top priority. Eating plant foods with every meal is better for digestion, and of course gives your body the nutrition it needs with every meal or snack.

Focus on balancing your plate by starting with loads of raw and/or cooked veggies, like a base of salad greens or an option to add a side or two of steamed asparagus or broccoli (but ask to hold any heavy sauces).

Then, you’ll want to make sure your dish is free of any high glycemic carbohydrates, which are typically going to be the processed ones like crackers, breads, croutons, chips, pastas, etc. All of these will spike your blood sugar, making you hungrier but never truly filling you up because they are void of nutrition. Another place where sugar hides is in dried fruits and candied nuts on salads.

Do be sure you’re getting plenty of fiber filled, lower glycemic carbohydrates. This can be things like roasted or baked sweet potatoes or regular potatoes (preferably skin on), fresh fruits on a salad, whole grains like brown rice or quinoa, beans, lentils, etc. The fiber in these foods, along with the fiber and nutrients in the veggies, will help to fill you up and satisfy your appetite — two things that processed foods just can’t and won’t do.

Finally, make sure your plate includes some good fat and/or protein. Protein examples are grilled or roasted fish, chicken, lean beef, or beans or quinoa for vegetarian options. Healthy fat examples are nuts, seeds, olives or olive oil, fish such as salmon or tuna, or a small amount of goat cheese or feta cheese, which are more digestible than harder cheeses.

Veggies + Healthy Fat and/or Protein = a Balanced Plate 😉

3. Know the appropriate portion sizes for protein.

Most restaurants serve huge portions, enough for at least two or three meals and that adds up quickly when weight loss and weight management is your goal.

When it comes to portion sizes for protein, here’s what to do: hold out your hand, palm up and fingers extended. One serving of chicken, fish or steak for your body size, is about the size of your palm, thickness of your pinkie. Note that the serving size isn’t the size of your whole hand, just your palm. That’s going to be about 3-4 ounces for women, a little more for men, which should be just about right.

Often when I’m eating out, I’ll find that an entrée includes a piece of chicken or fish that’s the side of two of my palms. Pay attention, and when this happens, cut it right down the middle and take the other half home in a box for lunch or dinner the next day. It’s a double win! You’ll prevent yourself from overeating, and you’ll be acting more frugally.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask for healthier substitutions.

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want! You are the paying customer, and I’ve found that most restaurants are more than happy to help with any modifications I ask for (always politely, though!) And you can ask my family, I frequently ask for modifications to a dish 🙂

Here’s an example: last night I ate at a wonderful local restaurant whose menu I know well, and whose ingredient quality I trust (Big Orange in Little Rock, for those who want to know). The salad I wanted was the Big Orange House, which has mixed lettuces, arugula, orange slices, strawberries, blueberries, goat cheese, candied pecans and citrus vinaigrette. Good carbs and fiber from the veggies and raw fruit, good fat and protein from the goat cheese. But, the candied pecans were likely high in sugar.

I saw that there were toasted walnuts on another entrée salad, so I politely asked to substitute those for the candied pecans on my salad. I also asked for the dressing served on the side, and my server happily obliged my requests. Happy customer, happy server, happy night!

Don’t ever hesitate to ask for exactly what you want to make your dining out experience as incredible as possible. Because you’re only eating out once or twice a week now that you know it’s better for your health, yes? And you want it to be an amazing experience.

Happy (occasional) dining out!

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