Understanding Your Options While Eating Out

Understanding Your Options While Eating Out

Cutting calories and getting on a regular workout routine is something many of us are always working toward. It can be challenging at any time, but nothing is more tempting than going out to a restaurant that we know has a tasty lineup full of plan-busting choices.

Here are a few things to ask yourself when planning to eat out:

Do I know much about the food choices at this restaurant?
Plan what you’re going to order — and how much:

  • Think about what you want to order before going to the restaurant by reviewing the menu online.
  • Ask for a smaller portion size, if that is an option. Or ask for a takeout box to come out with your meal. Box up half the meal before you start eating. If you are with a friend or family member, consider splitting a meal.
  • Will this meal taste good reheated? This factors into how much to order.
  • How can I make this meal better for me and still feel satisfied?

Making sure that you think about what you’ll be eating before you order is likely the most important aspect to making sure you’re eating the healthiest option.

What changes can I make to dishes to make them healthier?
Restaurants often have a light or reduced calorie menu. Choose from it for healthier options. But be careful because even though restaurants list lighter choices, they may still have anywhere from 800 to1,000 calories.

You can make simple changes to cut fat and calories:

  • Ask for butter to be left off or put on the side.
  • Ask for dressing on the side.
  • Ask for high calorie toppings on the side, or leave them off completely.
  • Substitute vegetables, fruit or grains for fries.
  • Ask if an item can be made differently, liked broiled or grilled.

How do I eat out without overeating?

  • Really hungry? Eat a piece of fruit or a small snack before you go to the restaurant to curb hunger.
  • No time for a snack? Drink a glass of water before you eat and order a healthy appetizer for the table.
  • Avoid impulse ordering before your meal when you’re very hungry and you’ll help avoid temptations. For example, wait to order dessert until after the meal. That way you can skip it if you’re full.
  • If you really want something that is not healthy, pair it with a healthier side and skip dessert.
  • One dessert is enough for a whole family. Order one to share if you can’t resist.

Where else can I cut calories or add healthier foods?

  • Don’t drink your calories: Soft drinks, sweet teas and alcoholic beverages all have significant amounts of calories and sugar. Give yourself permission to have more to eat by ordering water. For a little flavor, ask for a lemon or lime.
  • Pass up the appetizer: Why eat 1,000 calories before dinner? Start with a green salad without bread instead.
  • Skip the beef burgers: Try a grilled chicken or veggie burger.
  • Veg out: Fill half your plate with fruit or vegetables. Look out — potatoes don’t count as vegetables. Fill the rest of your plate with lean protein and whole grains.
  • Lose the bun: Many chains will wrap your burger, sub, or sandwich in fresh lettuce or turn it into a salad. Or at least ask for a whole-grain bun or bread.

Healthy eating on the go.

If you look for it, you can find healthier choices at home, at a fast food place or even at a convenience store. Take a look. You’ll probably see fruit, vegetables, yogurt or protein snacks you can grab.

Try these healthy substitutions and tips for adding more fruit and vegetables into your diet from Blue Cross and Blue Shield dietitian Judith Kolish:

  • A peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole grain bread is a powerhouse of nutrition, including protein, fiber and potassium.
  • Antioxidant alert: add a handful of blueberries to your oatmeal for their powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Instead of a bag of chips, try a side of hummus with carrots and celery. Some brands even make snack-sized hummus. Prepare for the week ahead by cutting up your vegetables and bagging them up over the weekend. You'll have snack portions ready throughout the week.
  • Choose plain Greek yogurt with fresh fruits and nuts instead of artificially and sugar-sweetened yogurts.
  • Try apples with almond butter. Almond butter provides a great source of protein and carbohydrates to maintain consistent blood sugar levels.

Originally published June 5, 2017