Following a healthy diet is one of the best ways to reduce your risks of many diseases, both chronic and acute. The food we put into our bodies every day literally becomes the building blocks for our cells. If you’ve recently switched to a better relationship with food, we commend you. It isn’t always easy.
One area of your life in which you may find some difficulty after adopting healthier lifestyle habits is dining out. Between portion sizes and an endless number of choices that are anything but good for your body, it can be hard to figure out what to eat and what to avoid on a restaurant menu. Check out the following guidelines and the next time you decide to grab takeout or a quick bite with friends, you can dine with confidence.
Read the menu before you go.
Look up the restaurant menu ahead of time online and decide what you’ll order before heading out the door. This might be one of the easiest ways to avoid decisions based on low blood sugar or cravings. You can also identify a few different menu items that you can later choose from if you want more freedom.
Know what to look for.
High-calorie foods tend to be battered and fried. Steer clear of menu items that are described as pan-fried, crispy, dipped, scalloped, breaded, or in a cream sauce. If you’re trying to maintain healthy eating habits, opt for items described as grilled, steamed, baked, roasted, braised, boiled, and seared.
Balance your plate.
Even when eating out, you should aim for a balanced plate. Incorporate lean proteins, whole grains, and vegetables into your meal. It may help to scan the menu for add-on or substitute items so that you can opt for, say, broccoli instead of fries with your burger.
Don’t go in hangry.
If you’re eating out for dinner, the worst thing you can do is skip meals throughout the day. If your body hasn’t had enough fuel, you may end up making bad decisions. Eat a small piece of fruit or some nuts before heading to your dinner destination to curb your cravings. A win-win for hydration and health—not to mention your wallet—is to replace your soda or cocktail with water.
Watch the portion sizes.
Most restaurants serve portions that are way too large for a person to eat in one sitting. Ask for a to-go box when you order your meal and, when served, immediately add half of the food inside it and set it aside. Bye-bye temptation! Some restaurants offer smaller or half-portion sizes, too. Take advantage of these whenever possible and ask your waiter if you don’t see the option listed on the menu.
Eat mindfully and enjoy yourself.
Our bodies digest food better when we eat slowly and mindfully versus when we scarf down as much as we can as fast as we can. Eat slowly so your brain has time to register the full signals of your stomach, which takes about 20 minutes. Additionally, take time to savor the company of your dinner companions. Another great tip is to put down your fork or spoon after every bite—it makes you more mindful of how fast you’re eating—and take a sip of your beverage after every other bite.
The rewards of eating healthy are plentiful, including feeling better physically, emotionally, and mentally. Additionally, you can avoid many of the diseases that plague our society just by paying attention to what goes into your body on a daily basis. Dining out can be great fun, and you can still maintain a healthy diet even while treating yourself to a night on the town. It takes discipline and planning ahead, but it’s all worth it!