This time of year, we are all so busy and may find ourselves dining out more in between holiday shopping. If you don’t go into a restaurant prepared, it can be risky— but the good news is that if you follow a few tips, it is possible! Part of making healthy eating a lifestyle is the ability to do the things you enjoy, such as going out to eat, and still staying on track with your goals, even during the holiday season. As long as you are well prepared, there is nothing to worry about!
Here are my 10 tips for healthy restaurant dining:
1. Scope out the menu before you go. The best thing you can do is check out the restaurant’s website before you go. It is smart to know what your options are and have a game plan before you get there. If you know what you are going to order or how you are going to modify a dish, it makes it easy when you arrive. You don’t even have to revisit the menu and be tempted by all the delicious dishes. If you know what you will be having it saves you from having to fight back your temptations and risk ordering something you may regret.
2. Eat before you go. It sounds silly, but having a protein shake or small snack before you go will help you stay on track. There is nothing worse than going to a restaurant hungry. Between all the tempting dishes and delicious smells, if you are hungry, everything sounds good and you can easily convince yourself to order off your plan. Not to mention, by the time you get to the restaurant, order and get your food, most likely a few hours have passed.
3. Ditch the bread or chip basket. The bottomless bread and chips basket is the easiest way to sabotage your results. It depends on who you are going out to eat with, but if at all possible, tell them to hold off on even bringing the free bread or chips. If you are going with a group, it may take some serious self-control, but you can do it!
4. Ask for dressing on the side. A salad seems like a healthy, guilt-free option, right?! It can be, but it can also have more calories and fat than a burger. When ordering a salad, it is best to hold off on any cheese and ask for the dressing to be placed on the side. You can either use the dressing offered with that salad, in moderation, OR better yet, ask for oil and vinegar on the side so you can monitor the amount of oil you use.
5. No butter, please! When ordering your meal, it is always best to say “No butter, please.” You would be surprised how much added butter is used when dining out. Everything from veggies to lean proteins can be smothered with butter.
6. Swap out carbs for extra veggies. Often times, the carbohydrates come with added oils and butter. Sub out any carbohydrates with extra veggies and remember to mention, “No butter please!”
7. Baked, broiled or grilled over fried. Avoid dishes that are fried and opt for your baked, broiled or grilled options. Anything that mentions a cream sauce or has “breaded” in the title is also something you should stay away from, as the sauces and breading can add a ton of extra calories, carbs and unnecessary fats!
8. Go clear or red. If you are enjoying a glass of wine or cocktail, ditch the sugary cocktails and go for a clear liquor with soda water and a lime or better yet, enjoy a glass of antioxidant-rich red wine in moderation.
9. Drink your water. It is important to drink plenty of water, especially when dining out. Restaurants tend to use tons more sodium than you are used to. Ever wonder why you wake up bloated and puffy the next day? This could be why! Be sure to hydrate and flush your system of any extra sodium, so that you wake up feeling refreshed and back to normal after a meal out!
10. Modify your meal. A common restaurant that many of us love is The Cheesecake Factory! As much as it definitely sounds like a forbidden zone, it actually can be a very healthy option, believe it or not. The Cheesecake Factory is known for its large entrees, gourmet burgers and variety of decadent cheesecakes, so it is easy to think this restaurant is off limits, but it doesn’t have to be! I personally love this restaurant because the menu is so large that there is something for everyone. Not to mention, with their new SkinnyLicious menu, it is really easy to find a healthy meal.
I want to share with you two of my favorite dishes that with the right modifications are completely guilt free, coming in around only 400 calories each. I promise that both of these meals will leave you feeling full and satisfied, yet still completely on track with your goals!
SkinnyLicious Fresh Grilled Salmon. This meal is about 570 calories as is, but if you ask to sub out the mashed potatoes for extra veggies (no butter, please), you can easily decrease the calories and fat significantly, making it about 400 calories!
SkinnyLicious Tuscan Chicken (my favorite!!) This meal is about 585 calories as is, but if you ask to sub out for extra veggies, no butter please, and light balsamic vinaigrette, you can drop the calories by 150-200, making it about 400 calories!
G-Tip: This dish does come sprinkled with cheese, even though it isn’t listed on the menu, so be sure to ask for no cheese, please.
I hope you find these tips helpful the next time you want to enjoy a healthy meal out while doing your holiday shopping. It is possible to still eat out and be social while reaching or maintaining your fitness goals!