In a perfect world you would cook every single meal you eat.  It is really the only way to know exactly what and how much you are eating, but the reality is that this is highly unlikely.  You will undoubtedly find yourself out to eat on many occasions, whether it is a planned social situation or you are unexpectedly caught on the go.  Eating out is very common and many Americans eat out as often as at least one meal a day and sometimes more.  It is important to remember eating out doesn’t have to be unhealthy.  You do not need to use “eating out” as an excuse to go crazy and make poor choices.  Now, more than ever, there are many healthy food options at restaurants so you can still eat out and stay within your goals, you just have to know what to look for.  Check out these simple tips below to help you remain on track.

 

  • Choose wisely- if you have the opportunity to select what restaurant you will be eating at, then by all means choose something you know to have healthy options and less temptations so that you will be more likely to stay on track.

 

  • Do your research- these days it is not that hard to find healthy food options almost anywhere. The secret is to do your research first.  Check out the restaurant menu online ahead of time.  Many restaurants have their menus listed and even have nutrition information available online as well.  You can go in with a plan to order the healthiest option available to you and there is less chance you will splurge and order something else.

 

  • Order first- once you know what you will be ordering then go ahead and order away.  Waiting for everyone else at the table to order first may tempt you into changing your plan and who knows, you may actually set a positive example and others may follow suit with healthier choices.

 

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions- many restaurants are very accommodating to special requests but you have to be willing to ask for them.  I know many people who are uncomfortable ordering “off-menu” but remember that restaurants are in business to serve customers and you are the customer.  As long as your requests are reasonable, chances are they will accommodate you.  I have yet to go to a restaurant that is unwilling to serve grilled chicken with steamed vegetables but you will never know if you do not ask.  Of course, it also helps to be kind to your server.  Your server is your best resource and they can help you get what you want, so be friendly and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

 

  • Pay attention to the wording on menus- make sure you read the wording on menus carefully.  Since you have no idea how your food is actually prepared without physically going into the kitchen, you need to be able to scope out the healthier options.  Stick to dishes with the words "grilled," "broiled," “baked” or "steamed" and avoid the ones with "fried," "breaded," "smothered," and "creamy."  Don’t forget, this applies to all foods on the menu even those appetizers and salads. 

 

  • Plan for your other meals that day- if you know you will be eating out and consuming more than usual at this one meal than it is important that you make the rest of your day “fit” into your goals by adjusting them accordingly.  For example, if you will be consuming most of your daily carbohydrates in that meal, then make sure at breakfast and lunch you are making the proper adjustments and not consuming excess carbohydrates at those meals as well.

 

  • Don’t continue on an unhealthy path even if you blow one meal- let’s face it, at one point or another you will eat something you weren’t planning on.  The secret is to not let it continue on and let it roll into the next meal and the next day and the next week, and so on.  One bad meal is not going to blow all your progress just like one good meal will not erase a bunch of unhealthy ones.  Forgive yourself and get right back on track.

 

Making healthy choices while eating out doesn't have to feel overwhelming or impossible.  Just because you have made a decision to live a healthier lifestyle does not mean you have to stay home and live in a bubble.  You can still meet friends and family out for a meal, just invest those few extra minutes to plan for your meal and you will not be disappointed.

 

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