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5 tips for keeping healthy when you dine out

As anyone who has dieted knows, dining out and eating healthy don’t always go hand-in-hand. Even seemingly healthy options like salads can be upwards of 1,000 calories when you start adding breaded meats, croutons, dried fruit, cheese, and creamy dressing. But you don’t have to resign yourself to dining in the solidarity of your kitchen. You can keep healthy when eating out if you just follow a few simple guidelines. Here are some tips and tricks to help you out.

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  1. Check the menu at home. Many restaurants now post their menus, sometimes complete with nutrition information, online. This allows you to peruse the menu at your leisure to select items that are healthy, low-calorie, and in keeping with whatever your current diet prescribes. When you’re in the restaurant with family members or friends, you might feel too embarrassed to ask for the nutrition menu or you might not want to hold up the order while you run through numbers. Instead, look online ahead of time whenever possible to make the process of healthy dining quick and easy once you sit down to order.
  2. Understand portion size. You should be aware of the fact that most restaurants provide about 2-3 times the recommended portion size for a single meal. On the upside, this means that those who understand portions sizes could get 2-3 meals for their money (thanks to doggie bags). But the downside is that if you’re not aware, you could end up seriously overeating. Here are some basic guidelines. Four ounces of meat is about the size of the palm of your hand. A cup of a side dish (potatoes, pasta, etc.) is about the size of your clenched fist. If you end up with larger portions, simply cut off the excess, push it to the side of your plate, and take it home for another meal later.
  3. Pay attention. The onus is on you to pay attention to what you eat. And this means first looking for additives like oil, butter, sauces, and toppings that will quickly add to the fat, sugar, and calorie count of your meal. If possible, request steamed veggies instead of grilled, and ask for sauces on the side. P.S. Think about skipping the alcohol. Not only is it full of empty calories, but it can lower your inhibitions and cause you to eat more than normal.
  4. Pre-eat. It’s never fun to think about going to your favorite restaurants and missing out on the delicious foods you love. But if you’re trying to watch your weight, eat healthy, or both, eating before you go out can help you to control your cravings, enjoy just a few bites of your faves, and stay on track for a healthier diet.
  5. Select healthier restaurants. If your area features restaurants that allow you to eat healthy, you should probably frequent them when you dine out. But don’t give up on your favorite haunts. If you want to visit a steak house, eat Mexican cuisine, or revel in the delights of the Bon Ton Caf, give yourself a treat once in a while. Just make sure to follow wise eating guidelines when you go and you should be able to stick to a healthy and sustainable diet.

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