Holidays, work trips and events, social events, and family vacations all have one thing in common: eating out at restaurants. Many people blame eating out for why they can’t reach their goals, but stopping eating at all restaurants to reach your fitness goals isn’t a realistic option. You need to know what to order, how to order it, and what to avoid. That way, whatever restaurant you end up at, whether you go out for Mexican, Chinese, American, or anything in between, you can continue to promote fitness gains, reach your weight loss goals, and look and feel your best.
How To Order Healthy While Eating Out
Learn Which Menu Keywords To Avoid
You need to look for some descriptive keywords on menus and then avoid them like the plague. These words will cue you in to the fact that the meal you’re about to order contains foods that are deep-fried, loaded with sugars, excess fats, creams, or processed ingredients that won’t promote fitness gains, weight loss, or general health. The following are descriptive words you should avoid on menus:
- Fried, battered, crispy, or crunchy
- Creamy or Au Gratin
- Loaded, stuffed, or smothered
- Glazed, sweet, sticky, or teriyaki
Instead, look for menu sections with a symbol indicating that they’re lower in calories, vegetarian, or light. The following are some descriptive words that indicate a meal is on the healthier side:
- Grilled, poached, roasted, braised, baked, rubbed, seared, sautéed, steamed
- Fresh, local, or organic
- Spiced, rubbed, or seasoned
Ordering at a restaurant is the time to push your people-pleasing tendencies to the side. You’re the paying customer and can make requests or changes to your order, and you’re not going to offend the waiter or the waitress. Restaurants are in the business of customer service, and you should never be uncomfortable about making special requests.
If you see a meal on the menu that you’d like to order, ask them to grill, broil, or sear your meat or fish instead of frying it. Substitute fries for steamed vegetables. Ask for your dressing on the side, or replace the dressing altogether and ask instead for olive oil, vinegar, and some salt. Only you are responsible for how you feel when you walk out of the restaurant, so take the initiative and order in a way that promotes your goals and health; you won’t regret it.
Pass on the Bread and Chip Baskets
Self-control is a character trait that few people possess, especially when it comes to unlimited bread baskets. If you know that you can’t resist a bread basket, or the basket full of chips, ask your waiter to take it away and substitute it for fresh vegetables.
Most restaurants will bring you a plate of raw vegetables that you can dip in the provided salsa or hummus. If you’re eating with a group that wants the bread or chip basket, move the basket from your immediate vicinity to keep temptation at bay.
Consider Your Cocktails Carefully
Cocktails are loaded with sugar, sometimes unnecessarily. When you’re in the mood for a margarita, opt for a Skinny Margarita, which will have less sugar and, by default, fewer calories. Order a light drink without added sugars like Ranch Water, Paloma, or Vodka Soda.
If you see a cocktail that you have to have, order it sans sugar. The waiter may look at you like you’re crazy, but you’ll save yourself from consuming a lot of unnecessary liquid calories. If you need some sweetener, ask for Stevia, or bring your own and add it to your drink yourself.
Don’t Let the Salad Menu Fool You
Many people who are trying to stick to a diet go directly to the salad section on their menus, thinking that’s where they’ll find the healthiest option. It’s important to note that not all salads are created equally. Many salads have a healthy base but, with the additional toppings and dressings, end up containing several hundred calories or more.
If you want to order a truly healthy salad, ask for the dressing on the side, hold off on the cheese, or ask for light cheese, and ask for some oil and vinegar on the side to add to your salad at your discretion. Always top your salad with a healthy protein like grilled chicken or salmon to create a balanced meal with plenty of protein.
Eat the Right Kind of Carbs
If you’re not avoiding carbohydrates altogether, make sure you know which ones to order to stabilize and maintain balanced blood sugar levels. Ask to substitute a sweet potato if a meal comes with a baked white potato. If that’s not an option, ask for grilled or steamed vegetables instead. If a meal comes with white rice, ask for brown or sub the rice altogether for a fresh veggie slaw or a fresh vegetable option.
Eating out at a restaurant doesn’t have to derail your diet. There are ways to leave dinner feeling good about your meal choices instead of being too full, bloated, and discouraged about what you ate. Your diet is a significant factor in the weight-loss equation, so once you get it under control, you’ll start to see some incredible changes in how you look and feel. If you need a local gym to get in your workouts and want to begin personal training sessions to take your body to the next level, we can help. Contact us today at SWEAT in Dallas, TX, to learn more about our gym memberships and to get paired with one of our personal trainers.