One of the downsides to following a healthy nutritional plan is that eating out can be quite an issue or at least appear to be. Many restaurants aren’t always overly concerned about providing healthy options. Or, even if they are, the options might not be as healthy as you would want.
To make matters worse, often times restaurants do not use standard sized portions which leaves you guessing about exactly how much of something you just ate. Oye, what a headache!
So do you give up and just not enjoy dining out anymore? While that is one choice, it can be a bit limiting. Instead we have some other options and ideas you can incorporate to help maintain some semblance of control over what you are consuming.
One of the first things you need to understand is what a portion of any given type of food looks like. This does not have to be an absolute science, but instead should be a general estimate. You want to be able to eyeball what the following look like:
- 8 ounces of steak or chicken
- A single serving of cooked rice or pasta (usually 1 cup)
- A cup of fruit
- 8 ounces of salad
- 8 ounces of milk or juice
These are the common amounts used when calculating calories and other figures. Knowing what this portion looks like on the plate makes it easier to determine how much of something you might want to eat. There is no rule that says you have to eat everything they serve you. If you can estimate portions then you can use that knowledge to estimate how much you should be eating for your own personal goal. Some people get stuck in the idea of ‘not wasting food you pay for’ but sometimes you have to bite the bullet if you want to eat out and not consume too many calories.
The Right to Ask
While many places now include calories and fat content on the menu that doesn’t tell the whole story. Even ‘healthy options’ might not really mean healthy. You have the right to ask exactly what ingredients are being used in an item and by law they have to provide detailed information.
Consider Your Options
The fun thing about eating out is the options you have. You can, for example, just have an appetizer instead of an entree. You can also substitute a lot of items. Why not ask for a side of fruit instead of French fries? You don’t need to add butter or oil to the bread they provide. In fact salads can be requested without dressing or dressing on the side so you can determine the amount used. It is your call! You can even ask them to leave off high fat things like cheese.
Some meals are naturally going to be healthier than others. You want to avoid things that include fried food, battered, breaded, batter-dipped, au gratin, or au beurre because they have basically just been dipped or cooked in extra fat. For drinks skip soda and ask for low-fat milk or juices or even natural lemonade. If you like dessert, just see if someone else wants to split one.
The Bottom Line
Eating out is not the end of the world and shouldn’t be avoided like the plague even if you are on a diet. Along with giving yourself a little ‘cheat meal’ you can also make that meal a bit healthier than the standard option by using some thought and adjusting the basics to something that more fits your needs. Don’t be intimidating because you are out and about. They are serving you and should be willing to adjust the order to make the customer happy; so speak up and enjoy eating out in a way that makes you happy and also keeps you on your nutritional track!