Eating Healthy When You're Away from Home
We've been careful for a long time now, and we're all anxious to venture out and enjoy some of the things we've missed during our homebound year. There is probably no more pent up demand than the desire to get back to our favorite restaurants and enjoy a meal with friends and family. This can bring up some old challenges that we may have forgotten about ... eating out while still eating healthy.
When it comes to sticking to a healthy diet, there is never a shortage of obstacles to challenge your resolve. Preparing healthy meals at home becomes relatively easy after a while or, if not easy, habitual. But eating healthy while eating out can still be a problem. Most of us consider dining out to be a bit of an indulgence and we like to capitalize on that indulgence by ordering something tasty and satisfying. We want to get the most bang for our buck, as it were, so we tend to forgive ourselves for straying from our plan. And with so many tasty things on the menu, it’s easy to get caught up in the mouth-watering moment and order something that might not be the best for your fitness goals. So how does one eat healthy while eating out? Remembering the following tips and tricks could help you make better choices while finding your meal away from home just as enjoyable.
Read the Menu Carefully
Government surveys have found that the food you typically eat when you’re not at home is nutritionally worse in every way than the food you prepare for yourself. A big reason for this is that you aren’t aware of all the ingredients that go into your meal. Your entree comes out polished and ready to eat. We rarely think about the individual components of that meal. Eating out and eating healthy doesn't have to be a contradiction in terms. The next time you’re out, carefully read the small text below each menu item. Identify what sauces and toppings the meal is made with. If an entree is slathered with sauce (which tends to be heavy and fattening), loaded with cheese, or topped with excessive amounts of bacon or some equally unhealthy addition, consider a different entree. Pay special attention to comfort dishes or sides, like mashed potatoes, which don’t immediately strike one as unhealthy but are actually prepared with fattening ingredients like butter, sour cream and salt. A dish doesn’t have to be soaked in sauces or additives to be flavorful and delicious.
Ask For It Your Way
While requesting changes to the menu doesn’t go over so well with talented chefs at top restaurants, don’t be shy to modify your dish most other times when it will allow you to have a healthy meal. Restaurants can modify almost any dish. For example, if an item is fried, ask for it grilled. If it comes with an unhealthy side, like french fries, you’ll often be able to swap it out for something like salad or vegetables instead. If it's prepared in butter, you might ask them to use olive oil. You will rarely be told "no" to any of these requests.
Eating Healthy Means Watching What You Drink
A surefire way to consume more calories than you need is to drink them. An unhealthy drink like a juice from concentrate or soda will go a long way to negate any good choices you made in your meal selection. Most drinks available at restaurants are akin to drinking a tall glass of sugar, and can be anywhere from 200 to 500 calories each, depending on the drink. If you’re consuming alcohol, opt for a ‘healthier’ cocktail such as a gin and tonic or vodka and soda. Avoid cocktails made with syrups, juices, and flavored soda. The healthiest option, when it comes to alcohol content, is a glass of wine. In fact, a glass of red wine with dinner has been shown to have notable health benefits, such as antioxidants and decreased risk of heart disease.
Ask for Sauce or Dressing on the Side
Sometimes, entrees with sauces aren’t all that unhealthy, or we simply want to indulge. In either case, ask for your sauce on the side, whether your entree is meat or salad. Often, a simple drizzle of sauce will pack in enough flavor to satisfy your craving and sauces are usually the most unhealthy part of any meal. The best way to eat salad with dressing on the side? Dip your empty fork into the sauce dish, then skewer a forkful of salad. You’ll get just the right ratio of salad to dressing and your lettuce won’t wilt due to drowning in liquid and you can still eat healthy while eating out.
Double the Veggies
You may have noticed that, in some restaurants, a side of vegetables is more akin to a garnish, amounting to just a few paltry bites. This stingy serving won’t be enough to fill you up and you’ll be left wishing you had ordered that unhealthy side dish instead. Such regrets won’t motivate you to continue making healthy choices in the future. A handy trick to try is asking to double or triple the amount of vegetables on your order. This increased serving size will fill up your belly and provide you with vitamins and minerals to energize you. Plus, you’ll end up eating less of your probably more unhealthy entree – or, at least you’ll probably be full enough to skip dessert. Offer to pay extra for this if necessary, but you’ll find most restaurants won’t bother charging you and you will have achieved a healthy meal away from home.
Make Eating Healthy a Habit
As with anything, eating out and eating healthy takes practice. Utilize the above tips to get you started and you’ll soon find, over time, that you’ve acquired some tricks of your own. Once you’ve made choosing healthy a habit, eating out won’t be the challenge it once was. In fact, you’ll enjoy each meal just as much as your hamburger-scarfing friends – but you’ll be healthier, trimmer, and feel better afterwards. Bon appetit!
RX Fitness Equipment is Here to Help
If you're beginning to ease back into your pre-pandemic life and you have concerns about maintaining a healthy routine, discuss it with a professional. RX Fitness works with hundreds of nutritionists, coaches, and personal trainers. We'd be happy to refer you to one who can help. If you're looking for a great selection of fitness equipment and accessories of all kinds, we carry the top brands to fit every goal and budget and we're here to make your fitness routine more productive. Stop by one of our four locations or give us a call. And don't forget to check out Tim's best-selling book, Fitness Equipment – A Shopper's Guide, available at Amazon and other online book sellers as well as in our store.