Going out to eat? Whether you're choosing a fast-casual restaurant or a Michelin-star fine dining experience, you can still make healthy choices while dining out! However, it takes a little preparation and knowing what to ask for.
Here are 9 of our favorite ways to make healthier choices while dining out!
1) Skip the sauces. Sauces add a lot of unnecessary calories, and also often have MSG, low-quality dairy, preservatives, artificial flavors, and more. This includes salad dressings!
What to choose instead: Go for simple toppings such as hot sauce, oil & vinegar, a little salt, EVOO, etc.
2) Steer clear of fried foods. In addition to being highly caloric, many fried foods contain harmful trans fats. Plus - the oil that the food is fried in (often canola, soy, corn, or cottonseed oil) is very likely genetically modified.
What to choose instead: Choose simple food preparations - go for the baked potato, grilled protein, steamed vegetables, etc.
3) Beware of butter. While butter is certainly better than hydrogenated oils like margarine and low-quality oils like canola, it can add a lot of excess calories. Even an order of steamed veggies at most places contain lots of butter! Request that they don't put butter on your food, and instead bring you a side of EVOO or another simple topping you can use instead.
What to choose instead: EVOO, salt & pepper, garlic, hot sauce, or just enjoy the veggies plain.
Note on dairy: Here at CLEAN.FIT, we're pro a well-rounded, diverse diet - but believe everyone should eat the foods that best fuel their body. Not everything is right for everyone! With that, some people can tolerate and enjoy dairy, while others may not be able to. However, we believe that high-quality dairy is the way to go - grass-fed, pasture-raised, organic-fed dairy has so many more health benefits - it contains many brain-boosting fatty acids (including omega-3s) and nutrients, while conventional, grain-fed dairy has significantly less health benefits (and in some cases, is even bad for you, exposing you to the antibiotics and hormones that the cattle was administered. Unless otherwise specified, the majority of restaurants are not using grass-fed dairy.
4) Don’t be afraid to customize! Most restaurants are happy to accommodate customizations. Want the reuben sandwich? Try ordering it sans Swiss and tell them to go light on the thousand island dressing!
5) Look for high-quality protein. Try to select wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef, antibiotic/hormone free poultry, organic tofu/tempeh, and so on.
6) Eating out isn't an excuse to skimp on your veggies! Even if you order something that you wouldn’t normally eat at home (every now and then you just need some fried chicken, amiright?!) - don’t totally abandon the healthiness of the whole meal! You can enjoy the #treatyoself moment, and still be conscious of your side dish selection.
What to choose instead: Go for veggies like green beens or a side salad, and choose the more complex carb side option such as sweet potatoes instead of say, cheesy mashed potatoes. It's all about balance!
7) Don't drink your calories. Sodas at restaurants are normally much larger than a 12 oz can (which has 150 calories) - so you are getting a large dose of excess calories, sugar, and fake ingredients that you don’t need! If you're going to choose an alcoholic beverage, stay away from options that have super sweet syrups or juices in them (a frozen margarita can contain over 500 calories!!).
What to choose instead: Choose something simple like red wine or vodka soda.
8) Try to choose "house-made". Whether it's a sauce, seasoning blend, hummus, or bread - house-made is much less likely to have preservatives or artificial ingredients in it, and thus is much "cleaner" of an option!
9) Go for a walk after you eat. Even if you make healthy choices while dining out, it's still very likely that your meal was more calorie-dense - and especially carbohydrate-dense - than something you would eat at home. Go for a 15 minute walk after eating to burn off some of that energy, kick start your metabolism, and help the digestive process! (As a bonus, studies show that walking after eating can help keep blood sugar level and reduce risk of diabetes!)
You don't have to sabotage all your healthy eating goals when eating out - nor do you have to deprive yourself of the yummy things at your favorite restaurant! Just follow these simple 9 steps, and you can have your cake and eat it too. ;)