Trying new restaurants is one of my favorite things, and I love grabbing dinner with friends- especially on the weekends. However, one heavy, high-calorie restaurant meal can sabotage a week’s worth of healthy eating. “Cheat days” don’t really exist when you’re trying to develop a healthy lifestyle. “Smart-eating days” can be your alternative for enjoying almost everyone’s favorite social activity without restricting yourself.
Below are some strategies for making dining-out delicious and guilt-free while still working toward your goals.
Ask for chips or bread to be left off the table. If this is difficult because of your company, put one piece of bread on a small plate, or 10 chips on a plate and eat from that plate only- rather than the basket. No refills.
This will allow you to be mindful of how much you are eating before dinner arrives. If you are very hungry at the table, order an appetizer of crudité (cut vegetables), hummus, tartare (raw or seared fish), edamame (soybean pods) or soup or salad.
Start your meal with a simple soup. This will help to fill you up to prevent overeating at mealtime. Broth-based, or vegetable purees are great choices over cream-based soups. As questions: some puree soups could also be cream-based.
When given the option, choose a fresh salad to start your meal. Many sides that come with an entrée- like potatoes- can be substituted for a simple side salad. This is a great way to get more veggies into your brunch or dinner entrée. Choose olive oil and vinegar for dressings- and avoid creamy dressings.
Choose steamed, sautéed vegetables over rich, high-calorie coconut milk or teriyaki dishes which can be high in calories or sugar.
Ask for brown rice instead of white rice for added fiber. Choose brown rice dishes over noodle dishes which are more likely to cause blood sugar spikes.
Select sautéed veggies like fajitas instead of heavy cheesy entrees. Salsa is much lower calorie than guacamole.
Choose primavera (vegetable) or tomato sauces over cream sauces. Ask for whole wheat pasta or choose a protein and veggie dish instead of pasta.
Look for meals that are not sandwiches or bread-based. White bread buns like brioche or pretzel buns can be very high in calories. Be cautious of cream sauces, white potato sides and look for veggie substitutions (hold the butter/ oil- or ask for it on the side). At brunch, choose egg dishes over pancakes/ French toast. Protein is important first thing, will prevent blood sugar spikes and will leave you more satiated.
Making these choices will also ensure you feel a LOT better after your meal rather than heavy, tired and bloated. Happy weekend!