Smart Strategies to Eating Out
Everyone enjoys going out to a restaurant for a meal from time to time. We all need a break from cooking and washing or we might be travelling and unable to cook. Whatever your reason is for eating out, I encourage you to keep it to a minimum. Yes, eating out can be fun but if you are serious about nourishing your body, you need to know what’s on your plate. The following 7 tips will help you navigate a menu and increase your chances of having a delicious nutrient dense meal.
If your budget allows, I encourage dining at establishments that use local, seasonal, sustainable and organic products on their menu. This is the best strategy you can employ to maximize the amount of nutrition on your plate. It may cost a bit more but it’s often worth it. Many restaurants use cheap ingredients that lack nutrients and rely on large scale commercial food production.
I love that most restaurants post their menus on-line so you can decide on what you are going to order before you even leave the house. This is fantastic for people that have dietary restrictions and food intolerances. You can call ahead to see if a certain dish can be made to meet your needs or you will know what questions you need to ask your server. Doing a bit of research ahead of time will lower your stress and enhance your dining experience. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and inquire about substitutions. Many restaurants are very accommodating if you have special dietary requests.
Keep it Simple
Select an entrée that comes with colourful vegetables. Avoid filling up on white potatoes and French fries that lack vitamins. Round out your plate with a piece of grilled or baked fish, poultry or beef. Eggs and beans are a couple of vegetarian alternatives to meat and seafood.
Beware of the Sauces
Many potentially hazardous ingredients like MSG, sugar, gluten, soy, dairy and refined seed oils are often hidden in sauces and salad dressings. Be sure to ask your server if you are trying to avoid particular ingredients. You could ask them to hold the sauce and request a wedge of lemon and some olive oil. This works great for a healthy salad dressing alternative too.
Salads should be an excellent choice but you have to remember that salads in restaurants are not the same as the ones you make at home. They may have fresh greens in common but there are some toppings that you need to watch out for to avoid empty calories. Fancy entree salads are often topped with calorie dense landmines like candied nuts, dried fruit, croutons, crispy noodles, cheese and creamy salad dressing. Your green salad should be topped with vegetables and some protein in the form of fish, poultry or beef. Some slices of avocado or fresh fruit are also nice additions.
An easy way to maximize your nutrition at a restaurant is to say no to refined carbohydrates likes bread, buns, pasta, tortillas and anything made with flour. These beige foods lack nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and are basically cheap filler. If you choose to indulge, be mindful of the portions. A restaurant plate of pasta can have up to 1500 calories and more than a days worth of salt, depending on the sauce.
Save eating out as a treat.
Enjoy the experience and DO NOT feel guilty. Food is fuel but it’s also a pleasure. Relax and enjoy your meal unless you have a food allergy/intolerance. You may have to decide that compromising your health is just not worth it. If you decide to go for it, savour every bite and eat until you are satisfied but not stuffed. Take some of your meal home so you don’t feel like you are wasting it if you are full and can’t finish it. Remember, there is always a next time.
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