One of the perks to living in New York City is the array of absolutely delectable foods. From mouth watering brick oven pizzas to the most luscious desserts you’ve ever laid your, well, taste buds on. Fortunately, because you walk nearly everywhere, you don’t feel quite so bad about devouring the entire pizza in addition to the flatbread and salad you ordered for an appetizer and following it up with peanut butter chocolate cheesecake bites. I mean after all, you did order a salad and the cheesecake was bite size, even if you did consume the equivalency of an entire slice and then some.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but sadly even if you walked all the way across Manhattan, you still wouldn’t work off all the calories you just consumed.
As Americans, 46 percent of our food budget is spent dining out. Our reasons? We’re busy. It’s a special occasion. We don’t want to cook or clean up. Because of this, the National Restaurant Association has found that Americans eat out an average of five times every week.
This wouldn’t be so terrible on our waistlines, if we knew how to make healthy decisions when it came to eating out. But because we are unable to control the ingredients going into these meals and typically aren’t aware of the proper portion sizes of these meals, we tend to overindulge and not make healthy decisions. Not only that, but eating out can be quite spendy and time consuming. While you may think you’re saving time by not preparing dinner, you still have to take into consideration the amount of time it takes you to get to the restaurant, the amount of time spent ordering, preparing your food, eating it, and then coming back home.
And there’s always some birthday to be celebrated and excuses to go out and meet up with friends over dinner. Or maybe you don’t want to bother with dishes. Maybe you simply are not the best cook. (In that case, check out some of these easy recipes that’ll make your mouth water and your belly happy.) Whatever your reason may be, here are some tips on how to be mindful when eating out and how to still stay within your daily recommended consumption of calories.
Eating Out, the Healthy Way
Eat something small with nutritional value before you go out. Seems to defeat the purpose of eating out right? By eating something healthy you won’t be absolutely starving while deciding what to order, therefore reducing the chance you’ll order too much food and feel the need to eat it all.
Take the “Leave Food on Your Plate” challenge. I know, your mom taught you to lick your plate clean. Mine did too. However, while you may be able to control your portion sizes at home, the same isn’t’ true for eating out. Typically the amount of food that is served to you is way beyond the recommended portion sizes. Most plates can feed at least two people and total at least half of your daily recommended caloric intake. And that’s for just one meal!
Try splitting meals or using nutrition data applications to find out how many calories are really in that “healthy” salad you are about to consume. I use MyFitnessPal because you can simply search the restaurant or meal and it allows you to find the amount of calories, fat, protein, and overall nutritional content of food and track it. From there, you can decide just how much of your plate you can enjoy and what can be left for possible leftovers.
I pity the fool, who’s fooled by salads. Many can have as much fat and calories as the entrees on a menu because of the added toppings and dressing in it. Try ordering the dressing on the side so you can control how much dressing you’re actually consuming. You can also ask your waiter ever so nicely to go light on the extras or hold the cheese as this adds additional fat content. Yes, nuts can be a great source of fat for your body but not when half of your salad is made up of it. You can also request that chicken or hardboiled egg whites added to the salad, for an additional fee, to up the protein content and have it be more filling.
Don’t be afraid to substitute or specify. When ordering vegetables or anything that may be cooked in butter, you can ask that it not be cooked in butter but rather steamed. Substitute brown rice for white, whole grains instead of white breads. If you’re ordering a burger, try substituting a green salad for those French fries or split fries with someone else. Sauces should be ordered on the side as these tend to up the caloric content.
Stay away from these words. Creamy, crispy, fried, breaded, smothered and instead look for words like grilled, steamed, or broiled as these are healthier ways to prepare food.
Skip the drink. Water is better for you anyways! Drinks are loaded with empty calories and sweeteners. Try instead to drink a glass of water before your meal to help prevent you from overeating and continuing to drink water throughout the duration of your meal.
Slow and steady. On average, you should be chewing 30-40 times for each bite of food. People who take longer to enjoy their food and chew it thoroughly tend to weigh less than those who eat more quickly and take less time to chew their food according to a study done by the American Journal of Nutrition. Besides, you’re out with friends and family while being served a delicious food. Why wouldn’t you take your time and savor each bite?
What’s your trick to eating healthy when going out to eat?
What’s your favorite restaurant (not chain related) to eat at?