Restaurant “Safety”

Healthy Living, Nutrition Steward Health Care

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9 Suggestions to Help You Enjoy Your Night Out and Eat Healthily Too!

1.     Pick your restaurant wisely. Pick a restaurant that you know offers healthy options. This might mean avoiding restaurants with names like “All Pasta, All The Time” or “If You Can Eat It, We Can Fry It.” Other than fast food restaurants, most places will have some healthy alternatives such as grilled or baked chicken, meat or fish or even a good salad bar. Talk to folks who may have been there. Try to find out if it is a “weight loss friendly” establishment.

2.     Plan your order in advance. Find the restaurant’s menu online before you go and decide what you will order. Sure, it might take a tiny bit of the fun out of the experience, but it will also alleviate the pressure of making an unhealthy decision in the moment when you are hungry and inclined to just give into your cravings. Studies show that the further in advance we make decisions about what to eat, the healthier our choices are likely to be.

3.     Order “off” the menu. If you find that your healthy options are limited (and by healthy, don’t be afraid to request the kitchen accommodate your needs. Most restaurants will happily grill a chicken breast and provide steamed vegetables, even if they do not appear on the menu that way. Restaurants typically offer grilled chicken on salads and vegetables as part of other dishes, so preparing them for you should not be out of the ordinary. If it makes you more comfortable, you can simply tell your server you have “dietary restrictions.”

4.     Make substitutions. If your meal comes with potatoes, rice or other carbs you are hoping to avoid, simply ask if the restaurant can make a substitution and provide vegetables or a side salad instead.

5.     Decline the bread. Restaurants that offer bread before the meal are a killer. If you are with close family members (who are willing to accommodate you), let your server know right away that no bread is needed. Removing the temptation is the easiest route. Of course that is not always possible when others you are with want the bread. In that case, just move it as far away as possible and remind yourself “it’s just bread.” You have had it before and it’s really not that exciting.

6.     Control your portion size. If you order a full size portion, consider dividing it in half before you even begin eating. Some people even like to ask for a takeout box for half their meal before they start. You will be happy to have the second half the next day. Another option is to order from the children’s menu. While some restaurants seem only to have “chicken finger” type options on their kids’ menus, others have more variety.

7.     Don’t drink your calories. Try to avoid soda, juice and alcohol, which can add unnecessarily to your calorie count and your hunger level. Good substitutes? Water with lemon or seltzers.

8.     Skip dessert. Save your money and your calories. If you are craving a sweet end to your meal, try a kiddie size or a  fat free frozen yogurt at your local ice cream shop after dinner to take the edge off and extend the fun of your evening.

9.     Discuss your plan with your dining companion beforehand. If you are dining with a family member or friend, and feel comfortable doing so, let him or her know how you plan to handle your meal before you go. Asking your companion not to offer you a taste of his or her meal, or encourage you to order something else, might fend off a stressful moment before it arrives.

Eating out can be fun and successful if you remember these tips and use them to your advantage. Bon Appetite!

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