Eating healthy meals at home, where you have control, is easy. I've laid that all out for you on the pages of this site. However, keeping that momentum going when you eat out at a restaurant is a different challenge. Not particularly more difficult, just different.
Since you don't have much, if any, control over the ingredients and cooking methods used by your favorite restaurants, I want to be sure you are fully armed with the information needed to make smart dining decisions when you dine out. Read on to find out how.
Healthy Meals At A Restaurant
Earlier on NewLeanerYou.com I laid out what a good, healthy, lifestyle-changing meal program looks like. At your three main meals, you want to have a plate of food that is approximately 1/3 lean protein, 1/3 complex carbohydrates and 1/3 vegetables or fruit. You can click on the links to get a refresher, as needed.
At home, you have all the right foods in your refrigerator just ready to be eaten. At a restaurant.....not so much. However, you do have control over what you select from the restaurant's menu and what items you eat from what comes on the plate. In addition, nowadays, many restaurants will allow free substitutions to make your meal conform to your new way of eating. That makes it easier. Be sure to ask your server if he/she will do that for you.
If you can't redesign a meal that really catches your eye on the menu, all hope is not lost. Again, courtesy of The Lean Body Promise, here are some ways to make your restaurant meal a healthy meal.
Before you even order, there are some "prevention" steps you can take to keep the meal from derailing your progress.
- Offer to make the reservations. This will allow you to pick a restaurant that you know will give you a chance to have a healthy meal to support your new lifestyle.
- Don't go to the restaurant hungry. Have protein shake or protein bar before you leave the house or office. Perhaps eat an apple or other piece of fruit. Eat anything from the various lists at the pages linked above to keep from being famished when you arrive at the restaurant.
- Avoid the before-the-meal drink. Most cocktails and beer have high calorie counts and stimulate your appetite (good for the restaurant, bad for you). Have a diet soda or water with lemon while you wait. Plus, that helps to fill you up a bit, too.
When ordering, try these techniques.
- As I mentioned above, ask them to accommodate your nutritional needs by substituting side dishes or by asking them to grill the meat instead of frying it. Ask for dressings on the side so you can control the portion.
- Desserts.....you already know the answer. Stick with a nice dish of fruit. Skip the pie, cake, cookies and ice cream. Discipline will help you meet your goals.
Sometimes, you just have to eat what is on the menu. Still, you have choices. Here are some healthy meal ideas for certain types of restaurants:
- Breakfast @ a diner - Ask for scrambled egg whites or Egg Beaters. Perhaps have them prepared as on omelet with vegetables like mushrooms, peppers, onions, etc. Skip the ham, bacon and cheese. Top it with salsa. Add some oatmeal for your carbohydrates and some fruit.
- Chinese restaurant - Focus on the chicken and seafood offerings. Get steamed rice and vegetables. Avoid stir-fry. Get a spring roll instead of an egg roll (they are fried).
- Continental or casual restaurant - Order your chicken grilled with the spices on top (not sauces). Add steamed vegetables and a yam, baked potato or steamed rice. If the chicken comes with skin, peal it off and set it aside. That is mostly fat.
- Italian restaurant - Again, avoid the wine (I enjoy a glass from time to time, but don't over-do it). Minestrone soup is a great appetizer vs. fried mozzarella. Most Italian restaurants have several fish selections. Order it grilled with some lemon. If it comes with pasta, get it on the side and see if they will down-size to, you guessed it, a portion the size of your fist. Marinara on the side for portion control (usually has sugar in it).
- Mexican restaurant - Similar to the others, order grilled chicken or fish. Skip the sauce-covered enchiladas, chimichangas and burritos. Get corn tortillas instead of flour (less fat, more fiber). Salsa, pico de gallo and salads; go for it. As for chips, if they are baked have some in moderation.
- Fast foods - In general, avoid these establishments even though they are all making efforts to provide more healthy meals. When traveling, sometimes there are no other choices. Follow the advice above: chicken or fish, baked or grilled, no french fries, remove skin from chicken. Remove the bun from sandwiches as they are usually white bread. Subway has several multi-grain breads. Just don't eat a foot-long. No Super-sizing! Keep portions small. Remember, you will eat again in 3 hours.
Eating out is good fun and a nice way to keep from having to cook all your meals. Just be smart about what, and how much, is on your plate and you will be fine. There are lots of healthy options. It is your opportunity to lead by example to your friends and family by eating healthy! See you on another page.