One of my favorite ‘date nights’ is spent going to Mongolian BBQ and getting frozen yogurt with my hubby. This isn't something we do every day or even every week, and when we do eat out I still make healthier choices (like choosing lean meats and veggies to fill up most of my plate, and frozen yogurt). And because we don't do it often, we enjoy it all the more when we do go out to eat!
Because I live a clean eating lifestyle, many people may think that this means that I never enjoy anything outside of my recipes and 'clean eating' foods, but this is certainly not the case! My theory is that all things can be enjoyed in moderation, and I think that it also helps that I actually enjoy the 'clean eating' foods that I make at home and eat on a daily basis.
And you know what!?! This mindset is what keeps me on track and living a healthy lifestyle year after year, because I never feel deprived, or like I 'can't' have a certain food/food group. I believe that living a healthy lifestyle all comes down to what God created us to do, which is make good choices, and living a life of balance.
Many people think that it’s impossible to ‘eat out’ while maintaining their commitment to live a healthy lifestyle. While it can be a bit of a challenge at times, if you plan ahead (when possible), and keep a few tips in mind when placing your order, you can enjoy the best of both worlds! The great thing is, a few simple ‘requests’ can save you hundreds of calories that you’d never even miss!
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you eat out that will allow you to maintain a healthy lifestyle:
- Be prepared. If possible, go online before going to the restaurant to see what options there are that sound good to you that are reasonably healthy as well! A lot of restaurants offer nutrition information online now, and if not, the calories for specific dishes can often be found using search engines! Try to looking for something with around 500 calories or less for one meal, (unless you plan on splitting an entree with someone).
- Fill up on the veggies. When looking at the menu, try to steer clear of dishes with anything 'white', which is ultimately just empty calories. Whether it be white pasta, bread, rice, or buns. Instead, try to choose options that fill the plate with veggies and lean sources of protein. You could even make a special request to have a lean turkey burger without the bun, or wrapped in lettuce, or you could swap out a side of rice with a side of steamed veggies, (just make sure to order them without butter).
- Watch portions. Most restaurant portions are double what a ‘normal’ portion size should be. One way to mind your portion size while eating out is to eat slowly, paying attention to when you are truly satisfied, (not stuffed), and getting a to-go box to take the leftovers home. Another great way to portion control is to split an entree with someone!
- Beware of salad dressings and sauces. If you order a salad, always ask for dressing on the side, and ask for a low fat dressing if possible. If low fat dressing is not an option, dip your fork in the dressing before each bite. As far as sauces, you may be surprised how much sugar, calories, and fat can be added to your food with just the sauce alone. Make it a practice to order dishes without the sauce, or ask for the sauce on the side so you can control how much goes on your food.
- Look carefully at salad toppings. When choosing a salad, make sure none of the ingredients are fried, (if they are, ask them to leave them off). Also ask for high fat ingredients such as nuts and cheeses on the side, this way you can control how much goes on.
- Skip the bread basket. The bread served before meals is truly nothing but empty calories, and generally a lot of empty calories at that, (with butter it could easily add up to 500 calories, which is the calorie contents of a meal!)
- Skip the fancy drinks. Ordering drinks to go along with your meal can add up to as many as 200-500 calories to your meal, (which is a meal in itself!) Instead of ordering a drink, ask for water with lemon. If you squeeze some lemon juice in your water, and add a packet of stevia, it tastes almost like lemonade, and it will save you money as well! You could also bring Tru Lemonade packets with you and add them to water, or stevia packets and add them to unsweetened iced tea!
- Don’t drink your calories. Stick with water, seltzer, or a diet soda. If you must have alcohol, limit yourself to one drink. A glass of wine, a light beer, a shot of hard liquor mixed with club soda all have around 100 calories, (which is much better than mixed drinks, which can contain hundreds of calories for one drink!)
- Know your terms. As a general rule, order foods that are broiled, grilled, roasted or steamed. Steer clear of foods that are fried, and sautéed, (which means that are cooked in a pan with oil).
- Don’t be embarrassed to make special requests. With all of the allergies out there today, you can be sure that wait staff and cooks are very used to getting special orders! If you ask for ‘no butter’, sauce on the side, or steamed versus sautéed, you could save yourself hundreds of calories that you would never even miss!