By Ana Snyder, M.S., Exercise Physiology; CPT, FNS
Today, most people are constantly running to the next meeting, juggling various tasks at once, or squeezing in just a little extra work on the daily commute. Everyone is busy. If you are health-conscious, your unruly schedule may conflict with your physical fitness aspirations. Frankly, healthy living is not always easy. During certain weeks there are not enough hours to fulfill all of your major responsibilities, let alone meal prep.
Nevertheless, modifying your daily eating habits outside of traditional meal prepping can still help you feel and look good. Here are some tips to keep it clean when eating out.
Pre-planning your food choices is sort of like a variation of meal-prep without the cooking. Prior to going out, check the menu of the restaurant that you are attending. Viewing the menu online and methodically mapping out your meal can help you avoid overeating. Additionally, if you are on a specific diet (e.g., keto, plant-based, vegetarian), knowing what your options are before arriving saves you both time and energy.
Make a point of finding out where your counterparts want to eat. Then, make it a point to suggest a dining location with healthier options. Society is beginning to realize the medicinal power of food. Consequently, many restaurants are becoming more health-conscious, so finding one that delivers in flavor and nutrients is more possible than ever.
When you add sauces and condiments to your dishes, you are inherently skyrocketing your calorie count. Just a few extra serving of ranch dressing can turn your super-green quinoa bowls into the equivalent of a gravy boat. Plus, condiments are often high in sodium and may cause belly bloat. To consciously stay on track with your healthy living goals, you need to make an effort to find alternatives to your favorite liquidy add-ons. For example, don’t ask for a creamy dressing to top off your leafy greens. Instead, opt for extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.
If you feel like you simply can’t survive without your favorite pack of honey mustard, you don’t have to cut it out completely. Just as with everything you eat, portion control can be practiced with sauces and condiments.
Seafood and sushi are excellent options when going for lunch or for a night out on the town. Not only are they tasty, but they are also known to have tremendous health benefits. According to the Sidney Fish Market, seafood is low in fat and cholesterol, but high in protein. Sushi is known to boost metabolism, regulate hormones, and even protect against certain cancers. These easy options can help you maintain your healthy-living lifestyle. Just be mindful of overdoing it on the carbs and mercury intake.
Similarly to sauces and condiments, drinks also pack on unexpected calories. Instead, choose water. The benefits of constantly drinking water include glowing skin and better breath. Water also prevents overeating by filling you up prior to receiving your meal; a glass or two before your meal makes you less prone to stuff yourself to the brim. And according to the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, water has also been known to improve metabolic function and relieve bloating. Water is truly your best friend when it comes to healthy living, and eating out. Its benefits are endless. By including more water in your diet, you increase your probability of staying within your health goals.
Moments of hanging out with friends and colleagues typically consist of enjoying one another’s company at a bar. More often than not, you are probably going to want to order a drink or two. Before you know it, you’re drinking beer and gulping down cocktails. This doesn’t have to be a problem when you do it in moderation. It’s important to remember that sticking to a healthy lifestyle does not necessarily mean saying “no” to fun. You do not have to deny yourself the pleasures of life. Rather, you just need to stay conscious of alternatives that better meet your health goals.
When it comes to alcoholic beverages, there are options you can consider that will let you enjoy your evening without derailing your diet. Business Insider states that some of the healthiest alcohols include tequila, red wine, rum, whiskey, rosé, and champagne. Wine, for example, helps improve heart health and assists in preventing certain types of cancers. So if you are going out to drink, just make sure you choose beverages with added benefits.
Have you ever heard someone say, “Don’t go to the grocery store on an empty stomach?” The same logic applies when you are going out to eat with friends. Think about it. If you are super hungry, you are more likely to over-order and subsequently eat way more than you originally intended. Try eating a small snack before you head out. This can make a big difference in the way you order for a number of reasons.
First, it helps you focus less on selecting the most decadent dishes and more on engaging with the people present at your table. Moreover, it prevents you from ordering a load of unnecessary food. Last but not least, in addition to the health benefits, eating a quick snack before heading out also means that you will likely come home with leftovers, which saves you a few coins.
We all have, or at least know someone who has chosen to wear baggier clothes than usual in order to prep for a big meal. If you are trying to lose or maintain weight, the same strategy can be used in the opposite direction. When going out, try to put on form-fitting outfits. As a result, you might feel a bit uncomfortable if you got too stuffed. While this might be a bit unconventional, it is effective. This is because the feeling of your clothes slowly tightening around you is a clear indicator of when to stop eating.
An additional way to keep it clean when you eat out is by checking on how the restaurant cooks and prepares your food. There is a big difference between fried broccoli and steamed broccoli. It doesn’t hurt to ask your server to prepare your meal a certain way. To put it into a caloric context, while steamed brown rice has only 215 calories and 3.5 grams of fiber per cup, fried rice has a whopping 450 calories and 14 grams of fat. The health benefits of fried vs. steamed food vary. Thus, you should request your food to be prepared according to your healthier preferences.
You should consider portion control your best friend when attempting to maintain a steady diet filled with nutrients. Sometimes you may not even be hungry enough to eat a full meal, but you order it anyway because of the social setting. Stop this habit. In lieu of this mindset, you can think of appetizers as a meal–-this can save you from overeating and add variety to your diet.
While it is typical to end dinner or even lunch with a dessert, it is not necessary. At the end of a large meal, it is not a stretch to say that most of us are full. Consequently, adding on a dessert to end your engagement might not be the best option. Not only do most desserts lack nutritional value, but they are also high in sugar. In addition, they may even have the same amount of calories as your entree.
If you still opt for a dessert, either try taking just a few bites or sharing your sweet dish with a couple of friends at the table. Coffee is also a good alternative to conclude a great night out because it has fewer calories and helps suppress appetite.
Deciding to live a healthier lifestyle does not have to be the death of your social life. You can still enjoy a night out on the town with your friends. But maintaining a nutrition-conscious existence does mean that you must be more aware of what you are putting into your body. Remember, eating clean is about the decisions you make both before and during your time at the table. So choose wisely.