Don’t Let Dining Out Derail Your Diet with These 5 Menu Hacks
Everyone thinks eating out is the source of all evil when it comes to dieting or maintaining your weight. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you look at eating out as an opportunity to make some healthy choices, rather than a moment of reckless abandon, you can enjoy the convenience and ambience of your favorite spot, without wasting all the progress you’ve made.
Here are a few pointers to place your order like a nutrition pro:
1. Knowledge of the Menu is Power
If you want to eat healthy, make sure the restaurant serves healthy food. Almost every restaurant provides a menu online that you can check before you go. Unsure if Duck L’Orange fits into your diet? If you don’t know what goes into a certain dish, just look up the recipe before you go (with a sauce that includes copious amounts of sugar and a hearty pour of Grand Marnier, Duck L’Orange almost definitely does not). As a good rule of thumb, avoid breaded, crispy, and creamy dishes in favor of grilled, broiled, and steamed entrees.
2. Set Yourself Up for Success
It’s not just about the calories. Where and how you choose to eat can change everything. Going to a restaurant that serves food a little out of your comfort zone (for example), will make you slow down, consider your options, and really taste the food, rather than wolfing down your favorite Friday-night Hawaiian pizza order. Who you choose to eat with can help as well. Eating out with a salad-obsessive, instead of a double-burger-and-fries type, will put more pressure on you to eat well, and save you from having to smell those fries from across the table.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask
Once you’re at the restaurant, it’s time to take your diet into your own hands (and that doesn’t mean ordering finger food). Don’t be nervous about interrogating your server—they’re there to help. Ask about preparation, portion size, and if the restaurant offers diet-friendly options. If you love the look of the grilled swordfish but not the garlic mashed potatoes on the side, ask if the carbs can be left off the plate or substituted for double vegetables. If you’re afraid of rejection, or taking up the table’s time, there are a couple tricks to make the process go smoothly. Don’t bother asking about substitutions for dishes that are probably pre-prepared, like soups, stews and casseroles, and always have a fallback option ready to go.
4. Manage Your Hunger
No one wants to think about portion control while they’re dining out, but if you’re not too hungry, it won’t feel like a chore. If you eat dinner closer to lunch, for example, you won’t feel a need to order the heftiest item on the menu as soon as you sit down. While you’re waiting for your moderately portioned meal to come, tell the waiter to hold the bread—you don’t need the temptation. Order a salad or protein-rich appetizer instead, or just make sure to drink lots of water.
5. Habits Make the Healthy Person
Even if you make every health-conscious choice in the book, there will still be some things you just can’t control when you eat out. Maybe there’s a spoonful of sugar in the sauce or a bit of oil drizzled over the fish. That’s ok. It’s more important to maintain the healthy habits your diet is teaching you to build—limiting unnecessary calories and portion size or staying away from carb- and fat-heavy foods—than it is to make every single crumb fit your diet.
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