The reality is that we are busy people and eating out is convenient, fun, and delicious.
Some of us have to eat out every day for several meals...and that’s ok.
We know the easiest way to avoid excess sugar, sodium, and calories is to prepare food at home, but there is a lot we can do to make smarter and healthier choices when we are eating out or on the go.
Being prepared and having a strategic plan will allow you to eat out at almost any restaurant and still stay on track.
TIP 1 - Plan ahead: GPS some healthy pit stops along your route.
A grocery store is a great place to pick up fruit and cut veggies to munch on.
If dining out, most restaurants have their menus online and some even have the nutritional info posted (chains mostly).
Go online, search for the nutrition information of the restaurant you want to go to, and plan out your choices.
Tip 2 – Pack snacks. There's no need to stop for food.
Keep a few healthy snacks in the car for long rides or bad traffic.
A trail mix of seeds, nuts and dried fruit is an easy, non-perishable option.
Granola bars with protein and less than 6 grams (or even better 0 grams) of sugar also work.
TIP 3- Drink please! Keep a filled water bottle in the car too.
We often think we're hungry when we are just thirsty.
If at a restaurant, try ordering a warm drink first thing such as hot water with some fresh lemon slices.
You’ll be surprised how this warm calming drink can fill you up and soothe the craving/hunger beast.
Herbal tea is also a great option while coffee tends to throw off blood sugar levels and may lead to cravings and bad decisions later on.
TIP 4 - Be an assertive orderer: Don’t be afraid to modify the menu.
Trust me, in this age of “nutritionism”, waiters are used to it.
Ask questions and know the terminology.
Grilled, steamed, broiled, boiled and baked are fine but beware of terms such as creamy, smothered, lightly breaded, deep fried.
Ask for sauces on the side and leave out the fries/rice/pasta/potatoes that usually come with the main and ask for extra veggies instead (most restaurants are happy to do this).
TIP 5 - Start with soup or salad: both can be filling and satisfying.
Order the dressing on the side and dip your fork lightly in the dressing before every forkful.
Stay with non-creamy soups. Ask the server if dairy is added.
That will let you know if they add cream or cheese or even butter (you can even tell your server that you are lactose intolerant to make sure they don’t add cream, butter or cheese)
TIP 6 - Appetizers as the main course: Try ordering from the appetizer menu if you don’t find anything you want on the main menu such as grilled calamari, Caprese salad, or shrimp cocktail.
Ordering from the appetizer menu saves calories with smaller portions and is less expensive.
TIP 7 - Liquor Control: Alcohol can stimulate hunger so never drink on an empty stomach (really throws off blood sugar) and try to follow the 1:1 rule; follow a glass of wine with a full glass of water.
Even try to cut the wine with ½ club soda or Perrier in a wine Spritzer or mix vodka with soda water.
TIP 8 - Portion Control/Leftovers for the next day: Most restaurants provide huge portions-take a look at the size of the plate or bowl!
Eyeball your serving size (palm of your hand) and divide your portion accordingly.
Make a mental note to have the rest packed-up for home, or better yet, ask the waiter for a to-go container and box it up right away.
Bonus: less for you to cook the next day.
TIP 9 – Eat protein before a long trip.
Protein helps to stabilize blood sugar which, in turn curbs hunger.
Eat a meal with protein before embarking on a long journey.
TIP 10 – Keep to regular meal intervals.
Eat a meal every 4-5 hours regardless of time zone changes.
If the journey doesn't allow for a real meal, be prepared with a substantial snack like seeds, nuts, dried fruit or cheese.
Make a list of your favorite places you like to eat on the go and look up their menu online.
Go ahead and select what you would order from them so there is no guesswork and no persuasion from enticing photos.
This includes fast food places like Mcdonald's and Chick Fil A (my favorite).