19 Eating Out Healthy Options – How to Plan Ahead

  • Usman 

Skipping the restaurant food altogether is generally an option that is easier for most of the people, but many people looking to lose weight want to keep eating out healthy.

And for some this is unavoidable. For example, someone who travels a lot for work will almost always have to deal with restaurant meals. For these people, healthy eating out options are the only way to keep trying for healthy food without blowing their diet.

It is not mandatory to avoid restaurants completely if you could plan ahead for meals that you would eat when eating out.

eating out healthy

It is primarily about making a good decision about food choices and you can still enjoy a healthy mean when eating out.

For some people eating out is an occasional indulgence, when for others, it’s a part of their daily routine. You may have heard the common phrase “you are what you eat.” It states that to stay fit and healthy, you should eat the right food.

As we all know, your body needs food and nutrients to perform its functions, but too much or too little or the wrong choice of food can harm your health.

 An eating plan that is rich in nutrients and helps manage your weight is known as healthy eating. You would be curious about which foods are most nutritious? Healthy eating focuses on eating various foods and nutrients that aid you in providing energy and maintaining your health.

 As you know, unhealthy eating is one of the significant global risks to health nowadays. Over-consumption of processed foods and changes in lifestyles is one of the factors affecting dietary patterns too.

It can be challenging to make good and healthy food choices, and it’s easy to get tempted when you are dining out with your friends, especially when you smell aromas and see dishes drenched in rich sauces and loaded with creamy dressings.

It gets tough to stick to healthy eating when dining out, mostly. So, we will discuss some strategies you should follow as not to trade off your nutrients when dining out and how to make the healthiest choices.

19 Eating Out Healthy Tips

Follow these simple tips and you can continue eating out even on a diet.

Make a Healthy Swap

Nowadays restaurant menus are filled with more healthier options. So when dining out, try to create a balance in your meals by choosing an appropriate proportion from fats, carbohydrates, and lean proteins

. By just making a minor change in the choice, you can make a big difference on your weight scale. For example, instead of choosing burgers, you can opt for steaks to munch on grilled meat with steamed veggies.

 Try to make smart choices like choosing the grilled version of meat or vegetables over fried, steamed veggies instead of French fries, or add low-fat milk in coffee instead of full cream. You can also ask to get creamy dressings and sauces on the side. So, it’s up to you how beautifully you manage to add a variety of healthful foods to your plate. 

If you think just ordering a plate of salad is enough for restricting calories, it cannot be as restaurants tend to top up your salads with many high-fat dressings and seasonings, which could make your salad enough to provide you enough calories. Thus, just ordering greens is not categorized as a calorie restricting choice. 

Choose the destination and food before you go.

Don’t let the smell and sight of food distract you from your goal. As when you are hungry, there are more chances that you end up making wrong choices. Many restaurants offer online menus, so it becomes easy for you to choose from the healthiest options.

Always select your meal beforehand as not to get distracted by enticing menus. The trick is to choose the destination with more nutritious food choices like whole grains, steamed versions, and vegetables.

Here are some eating out healthy options which you should try to add up to your online menu:

  • Choose whole-grain bread, kinds of pasta, and pita to get your fiber
  • Any exotic seasonal fruit like papaya or kiwi
  • Sandwiches with lean meat like chicken, tuna, turkey, or lean beef roast with dressings of light mayo, mustard sauce.
  • Fish and seafood in baked or grilled form
  • Try to add more tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, raw baby carrots, green and red paper strips in your wraps and sandwiches.
  • Always choose low-fat cheese, milk, and yogurt. 

In social gatherings, people unconsciously tend to mimic each other. So if you are dining out with a group of people that don’t follow healthy eating patterns, try to place an order before them. In this way, you wouldn’t be influenced by their food choices and able to stand away from their unhealthy choices.

Make a plan

Making a plan will also be beneficial in many ways. If you know ahead that you are going on a dinner try to have something light in lunch. If you are hungry when you arrive at a restaurant, you may likely eat extra food and probably make unhealthy choices, so the best way is to always have a snack before dining out.

Either you can have a piece of fruit or a cup of broth before you head out of the home. So, try to socialize more than eating and do try to stand away from the buffet table.

Another trick is to eat your meal slowly, as it takes 20 minutes for your brain to realize what you have eaten. Slow eaters may end eating up less food than fast eaters and help make you fuller quickly.

Try to focus on mindful eating as it helps make you conscious choices about food and pay your full attention to food. Enjoy the food, feel the aromas and let yourself. 

Look for the specific words.

Restaurants use enticing words to make their dishes appealing to the diner. You can always guess how a dish is prepared from its name. It can also give you a clear picture of the number of calories it may contain.

Look carefully at the words like “fried,” “alfredo,” “crunchy,” “sautéed,” “creamy or rich.” Such foods are mostly fried and prepared in an unhealthy way, and you may end up eating a lot of calories. Choose the options like steamed, broiled, and grilled.

 Ask deliberately and never hesitate to ask your chef to use olive oil in your food instead of butter and margarine. If you think you are badly craving something unhealthy, go ahead, divert your mind from what you cannot eat.

The best way is to share that meal with your friend or take half meal with you for home. In this way, you will fulfill your craving, and your friend will enjoy your meal too.

Drink water before a meal

Drinking water half an hour before a meal gives a feeling of fullness and decreases the risk of eating more calories. Many of us add additional sugar to our diet by drinking sweetened beverages. Water is the best substitute for all such sweetened drinks.

If you don’t want to overload yourself with large-sized meals, drink 1 to glasses of water before dinner. A study published by NIH has also supported it, people who drink approximately 500ml water before a meal may lose 44% more weight.

Look out for sodium

Dining out is nice once in a while when you are not cooking at home. Most people prefer to dine out because of their busy schedules. But dining out more often may result in a rise in sodium intake and add up on calories. Thus, try to eat less often from outside if you have a habit of daily eating from out reducing it to once or twice a week.

Although many food chains have started mentioning nutritional facts on their menus, the amount of sodium and fats it contains remains hidden. Sodium is added in large amounts by restaurants to enhance their flavors. Look for keywords like smoked and pickled. Try to choose fewer foods that are made by using soya sauce or teriyaki sauce.

You would be surprised to see the number of calories a small pizza or burger can have; after all, it’s only a small one. Never leave the chance of making any smart choice you can. A doubled cheese pizza would be as savory as single cheese; just it would have more calories.  

According to a Journal of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, restaurant meals have more calories than home-cooked meals. It is observed that 90 % of restaurant meals have more calories than needed by an average person and may have an additional hidden amount of sodium, fat, and sugar.

Control portion size

Restaurants mostly serve large-sized meals. The portion size did at most fast-food restaurants is more significant than what you eat at home. It has also been researched that you may likely overeat when you are served bigger meals.

So don’t indulge yourself in super-sized meal combinations. Leave behind the advice of your mother to clean the plate when dining out. Don’t add up calories in the temptation of merely cleaning your plate. So the key is to control your portion size. Remain stick to the portion you may eat when at home. 

A study published by the National Institute of health surveyed that people who lost weight and kept it off also mostly orders half a portion or share their meals.

You can also ditch your system in another way. When you know that the food served will be larger, order two appetizers instead of one main meal. By doing this, you will find yourself ending up consuming lesser calories as for one main course.

 Avoid going on a buffet.

One of the buffet’s significant problems is you may find yourself overfilling your plate to get your money’s worth. Simultaneously when you see a large variety of food, making smart choices can be challenging. So you can work in either way.

  • Either choosing a small plate to eat, as you may feel hesitant to fill the plate again and again.
  • Or start with salads; fill half of your plate with fruits and salads. In this way, you will have lesser space on your plate to add on food.

Here are some additional tips that will aid you in picking eating out healthy options:

Read online menus before you go

Read the menus before you actually leave for the restaurant. Almost every worthwhile restaurant now has its menu available online. Many restaurants also give the calorie counts of their meals in their online menus.

In case it is not available online, you could always ask the restaurant to send you the menu through one of the messaging apps. By having a good look at the menu beforehand, you could choose healthy options even before going for eating out.

Grilled over fried

Pick grilled options. By staying away from fried dishes, you would cut hundreds of calories and also stick closer to your diet plan.

Healthy side orders

Look for steam vegetables as side orders. These are one of the best healthy eating out options that keep you right on track of your diet program.

Watch out for unhealthy salads

Salads may be tricky. Most people believe that salads have to be healthy. That’s why they order salads but restaurant salads may sometimes be far from being a healthy option when eating out. Most salads at restaurants are loaded with hidden calories, courtesy diverse cheeses, dressings, croutons and host of other extras.

Look out for healthier sub menu

Look if there is a sub menu with healthier options. Taking note from customers’ interest in healthy foods when eating out, most restaurants denote lighter versions or healthier items on their menu.

Create your own plate

Exercise à la carte option. If you can not find something healthy as a menu item, pick healthier items from the menu and create your own plate.

Keep a list

Keep a ready-made list of healthier options at restaurants. This will save you the trouble of searching from ground zero again because you would already be having your go-to healthy meals at your choice restaurants.

Eat lighter at rest of the meals

Choose to eat lighter meals during rest of the day if you know you would overindulge at your favorite restaurant at lunch or dinner.

Fish is a safe option

One sure healthy choice when dining out is fish. Therefore, look for salmon or tuna on the menu because they have healthy omega-3 fats which are good for your health.

Stay away from added cheese

Stay away from fried foods and added cheese because restaurant meals have abundance of these but these can increase your calories apart from raising your cholesterol levels.

No french fries

Stay away from French fries as side dish. Pick skinless broiled chicken over fried chicken. And if you would top off your meal with a coffee, ask for coffee that has low-fat milk in place of cream.

In the worst case if you can’t find healthy eating out options at your restaurant, ask the server to not bring fries to your plate. When the fried chicken arrives, peel off its skin. Also skip butter and finish off the meal with tea in place of cream coffee.

Eating out at restaurants when dieting can become a little challenging. However, by choosing eating out healthy options, you can still keep enjoying the convenience of eating out by having your food already prepared and still sticking to your diet plan. It is especially true for many people for whom dining out is a necessity.

Stop yourself from thinking about what you cannot eat? It will drive you crazier. Just put your attention towards what healthful foods you can eat. People who feel forced to diet for weight loss often end up frustratingly and cannot achieve their goals.

Let be the change you want to see. Thus, you can still eat foods high in carbohydrates, fats, and calories once in a while. Just try to balance your dine-out with healthier foods and more physical activity. 

Eating out doesn’t have to mean abandonment of your diet. There is no apparent reason why it can not be a healthy eating out.

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Muhammad Usman

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