Motivation Monday: Your Guide to Eating Out

By Katie Petroka

We all know that cooking ourselves is a much healthier way to eat, but, occasionally who doesn’t love to go out to dinner? No preparation, no washing the dishes, and you can sit and relax. What’s better than that? Whether it’s Italian, Mexican, Japanese, or good ol’ American food, there are various ways to order wisely. Here are just a few helpful hints on how to eat out healthier while still enjoying your meal.

Dressing on the side please! When ordering a salad, take control of the situation and ask for the dressing on the side to ensure the exact amount you want on your salad. How often have you ordered a salad only to have it arrive at your table drenched in dressing. Not only is it a soggy, unappealing mess, but now that healthy salad you ordered has a few extra hundred calories added.

When dining at an Asian restaurant, particularly Japanese and Thai restaurants, the menu is filled with lots of healthy options consisting of fish, vegetables, and grains. But when ordering sushi or a stir-fry, ask for brown rice instead of white rice. Brown rice contains more fiber than white rice and has nutrients like magnesium, manganese and zinc. Call the restaurant beforehand to make sure they offer brown rice. Unfortunately, some Asian restaurants do not offer the more nutrient dense brown rice. When this happens I find another restaurant!

Dining at a Mexican restaurant can be a challenge when trying to maintain a healthy diet. It is easy to get caught up in the sugary margaritas and nachos. A nice treat when you really want to splurge! There are some better choices though if you want to keep your calories in check. Who doesn’t love guacamole? Guacamole is made from avocados, which is a form of good fat. And salsa just contains lots of veggies! Just try to eat the chips, salsa, and gauc combo in moderation. I know from personal experience it takes a lot of self-control to stop eating that goodness. When ordering your main dish, ask to skip the sour cream and instead top your burrito, quesadilla, or taco with some fresh salsa.

Ever been to a steakhouse and order fish thinking it is the healthier option compared to that New York strip? Well it is, but don’t drown that fresh flavor in butter. Ask if the chef could cook your fish in olive oil and lemon instead of butter. Believe me, your body, and taste buds will thank you.

When ordering a sandwich at a deli or café, ask for whole wheat bread or a whole-wheat wrap instead of white bread or a bagel. Switching from white bread to whole wheat bread can lower risk of heart disease by 20 percent. Whole wheat bread contains about 5 times more fiber than white bread. Instead of smearing mayonnaise on that whole wheat bread try mustard or hummus for a new spin on an old favorite!

Perhaps you and a friend are out to dinner but don’t want to overeat. Since portion sizes are so large these days, split an entrée and an appetizer. Or, ask the server to bring half of a portion and put the other half right in to a “to go” box that way you can enjoy a pre-made meal the next day! When we are talking and having a good time sometimes we don’t notice that we have eaten our whole plate in a few minutes! This is a little trick to keep the meal smaller while still enjoying dinner.

Ciao fat! If you’re dining at an Italian restaurant (my absolute favorite) order a pasta dish with vegetables and a light sauce like olive oil and garlic. (Have you noticed I am obsessed with olive oil? Because it’s amazing!) You could also choose a pasta dish with a marinara sauce (just tomatoes, basil, and herbs) instead of heavy cream sauces such as alfredo, fettuccine, or carbonara sauce made with eggs, cream, and cheese. Pasta is delicious but when topped with cream sauces it becomes more of a stomachache than molto delizioso.

Breakfast is great. It can also be salty, sweet, and tremendously heavy! After I eat at my favorite breakfast spot, I usually want to go home, put on sweats, and take a nap! To avoid this food coma, replace your order of French toast or those double-stacked pancakes with an omelette with vegetables, whole-wheat toast, and a side of fruit. Omelettes are a great source of protein to help keep you feeling satisfied longer and with this order you get all of the food groups in one sitting!

These are just a few tips to ensure a healthy eating out experience. Do not worry about friends, family, or waiters judging you for requesting healthier options. At the end of the day it is your body and you need to make the best decisions for you. Eating out is fun and can be healthy as long as you make the right choices!




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Hi! I'm Heather: a body positivity, Health at Every Size dietitian. When I'm not blogging about wellness, I'm spending time with my fabulous family. Sometimes, they wear me out, so then it's time to bake, read, knit, tie myself into a yoga pose, or continue to work my first novel... stay tuned.