We live in a fast-paced world, and though I wish it weren’t so, many of our lifestyles depend on convenience and efficiency.
Especially when it comes to food.
Truly, our entire modern food system, from the conventional way our food is cheaply and quickly raised and produced, to the rise of fast food restaurants and our reliance on take-out, is due to the demand of hectic schedules and “give it to me now” attitudes in Western culture.
And though I think many of us know that home-cooked meals are often healthier (not to mention a bit cheaper), the reality is, dining out is a part of our culture and day-to-day that I don’t see going away anytime soon.
So while it’s a good idea to transition to making more meals at home (ideally the majority of meals), I also think it’s important to know how to go about getting healthier food options when dining out. Below are my top 4 tips for making dining out a bit healthier:
Do your research, and be picky about the restaurants you choose to eat at.
Not all restaurants and menus are created equal. Of course you want to look into what is on the menu and scope out healthier options, but I think it’s even more important to look into where the restaurant sources their ingredients from. How were the animals raised? Where does the produce come from? In my experience, if a restaurant doesn’t acknowledge these questions, on the menu or online somewhere, it probably means they aren’t too focused on fresh, local, humane, and sustainable foods.
While it’s impossible to be perfect with the quality of foods we eat all the time, a healthier meal starts with healthier ingredients. And obviously, healthier ingredients are going to be found at restaurants that take pride in sourcing them.
Bottom line: start off strong by finding a place that serves quality food!
Don’t drink your calories (unless you want to).
It’s easy to forget sometimes that beverages can be high in calories and sugar. This is fine once in a while, but if you are opting to enjoy something more decadent than water or unsweetened tea, don’t forget to factor the drink in as more of a “treat” and enjoy it in moderation.
In general, opt for water or unsweetened tea or coffee, and definitely skip the diet soda, which has been linked to increased risk of weight gain and metabolic syndrome.
Prioritize plants and protein.
You can really never eat too many veggies! Opt for a salad to start, or a large entree salad, or even veggies on the side. If you’re out for pizza or a sandwich or wrap, don’t be shy about loading up on veggies as toppings and fix-ins!
As far as protein goes, look for lean meats like chicken, turkey, or bison. Eggs are also a fantastic source of protein readily available at most restaurants. And don’t dismiss plant-based protein options like beans, lentils, quinoa, brown rice, and organic soy.
Don’t fear leftovers.
Part of the problem with restaurant food is that there’s just so damn much of it! The portions can be huge! That being said, don’t feel obligated to finish it all. Eat until you are pleasantly satisfied, and take the rest home as leftovers. Or, if you know something won’t keep well, see if you can order it in a smaller portion or share with a friend so you won’t feel like you are wasting food.
These are the strategies that work for me, and that I use in the multiple times weekly I eat restaurant food. But this is certainly not an exhaustive list of ways to eat healthier when dining out. It’s your turn to leave a comment and let me know, do these strategies work for you, or do you have others that you like?