How to Choose Healthy Food from Restaurants
There’s nothing wrong with eating out. Yet, doing it all the time can leave you feeling bloated and gaining weight. Choosing healthy food from restaurants or even the right restaurant can be hard. When I used to travel for business, I would have a hard time maintaining a healthy weight. I would eat out every night and I wanted to try everything. It was so hard not to try something new or something that sounded delicious. Most of those items were unhealthy. I also had a hard time avoiding the drink with dinner which was often an everyday occurrence.
Many people have problems choosing healthy food from restaurants. However, there are steps you can take to ensure that you eat healthy food from restaurants. It can be a struggle at first, but once you develop the habit it becomes a lot easier. Not every meal out has to be a healthy one, but if you want to eat out a lot or even once a week picking healthier options goes a long way.
Start with Uncovering Intrinsic Motivations.
I’ve written extensively about this in other posts, but I will go into it briefly. If you head to a restaurant with no goals in mind, you’re likely to overeat or indulge. You have to go into eating out with your intrinsic motivation. Follow the 5 why exercise to ensure that you have good reason to eat healthy. Something like wanting to feel confident in the day to day will keep you away from bad food. Looking good in a bathing suit won’t.
Keep this in mind when you decide to choose healthy food from restaurants. Your motivation will be part of your identity instead of a passing thought. You always choose healthy food from restaurants. You don’t want to choose healthy foods; you have to. This difference in thinking takes some time to build up, but it can make a lifetime of difference. Approach eating out at restaurants in this way to maintain your health even when you go out.
Choose Healthy Food from Restaurants by Picking the Right One
Before you even go out pick a healthier restaurant. A farm to table restaurant is going to have much better options than a fried chicken joint. You can find healthier options on most menus, but a healthy restaurant will have more options. Start your research on Google Maps or Yelp by looking for farm to table restaurants. If there are none look up Vegetarian, Mexican, or Thai. These establishments make it much easier to choose healthy food from restaurants.
A farm to table restaurant will have food that’s good for your body while still tasting amazing. A local grass-fed steak will taste so much better than a mass-marketed steak flown across the country. Many people haven’t tried food like this even though its some of the best you can get. These places are worth seeking out. I guarantee it will taste much better than your average restaurant meal of fried chicken or a burger. Vegetarian food will be the same. Thai and Mexican food will have healthier options to choose from. Start with choosing a better restaurant to eat better.
Choose Healthy Food from Restaurants by Picking the Right Meal
Any restaurant menu is intimidating. There can be a dozen options. The unhealthiest can seem the yummiest. Remember your intrinsic motivations when you’re choosing your meal. Choosing healthy food from restaurants becomes easier when you remember why you’re sticking to a healthy routine. Look up the menu before you go and choose your meal, so you’re not tempted when you get there!
Start by scanning through the menu and looking for items that contain lean proteins and vegetables. Often this can be meat with a healthy side of vegetables. Limit starches to items like potatoes or rice. When prepared right this can be an incredible meal. Especially when you have an interesting protein source like an exotic fish or gamey meat. Grilled or baked meats are a better option at restaurants. Restaurants use oils such as canola which can cause major health issues. Avoid pan-seared and fried items since they’re often doused in bad oils. Skip the appetizer unless it’s a salad since it will likely fill you up. Avoid heavy calorie dressings and stick to olive oil and vinegar or balsamic.
Some restaurants may need a little more care when picking a meal. Mexican and Thai can be healthy and delicious, but you have to avoid some menu items. Stick to the rule of large amounts of protein and veggies with a side of starches. At a Mexican restaurant, this may be a stir fry without the cheese. Avoid heavy tortillas. It’s also a good idea to ask for no chips since they’re impossible to stop eating. Healthy Thai food could be another stir fry or curry. Avoid heavy noodle dishes. You should be able to find a Thai or Mexican joint in most towns.
Choose Healthy Food from Restaurants by Eating the Proper Portions
Restaurant portions are HUGE, especially in the US. Before you even start to eat your meal separate out your take-home portion. Eat 2 palms of protein (1 for women) and 2 cupped handfuls of starches (1 for women). You can eat unlimited vegetables. Put the rest to one side of your plate to take home in a doggy bag. Eat slowly and mindfully putting down your fork between bites. Enjoy your meal and savor every bite. Make choosing healthy food from restaurants enjoyable by savoring it. Get into a good conversation and take your time eating your meal. If you’re still hungry after finishing, relax, and talk for 20 minutes. Your hunger will likely subside.
By choosing a healthier option and the right portions you’ll be more satisfied. It’s surprising how good a healthy meal can taste and how great you feel after. When you’re eating out remember the times you overate and felt awful afterwards. It’s worth it to divide out the proper portions so you leave feeling great. Nobody likes that stuffed feeling.
Avoiding the Temptations
Going out to a restaurant is a treat. Everything you eat doesn’t have to be healthy as long as you’re maintaining a healthy habit at home. However, if you find yourself eating out a lot at home or on vacation then following the above tips is helpful. If you want to indulge, you should consider splitting the meal or dessert with a friend or loved one. A few bites are all you need to experience the incredible taste. Eating all of it doesn’t provide any extra benefit.
The rule of thumb is to never follow a “bad meal” with another one. Eat a healthy breakfast by sticking to protein and vegetables. If you want to indulge at lunch especially while traveling go for it! However, follow that up by choosing healthy food from restaurants for dinner. Try to sandwich your bad meal with two good ones. Remember how bad you felt in the past when you strung together bad meals. Keep your intrinsic motivations in mind to keep you on track!
Alcohol is a common temptation at every restaurant. The first thing you’re asked is what you want to drink. It feels obligatory to get something, but it isn’t. Water is free and an easy way to stay satisfied. There’s nothing wrong with having a drink with dinner. Get something you can savor and enjoy. Take your time and get a nice craft beer, cocktail, or wine. Never feel forced to drink even if others are. I would encourage you to read my comprehensive post about dealing with the temptation of alcohol.
You Can Eat Healthy at Restaurants
Follow these tips to eat better when you go out. It doesn’t have to be a free for all indulgence into fried food and sweets. Some of the best meals are the healthiest. When choosing healthy food from restaurants, remember your goals and motivations. Remember the unhealthy meals you had and how they made you feel. Embrace the social aspect of eating out and enjoy that along with the food. Eating out is a treat. Treat it as such!
You don’t have to be perfect when you eat out. Leave some room for indulgence. Do it intelligently. I would never advise skipping an incredible pizza in Italy, but a pizza off the street in Florida won’t great. Enjoy your meal out and make it a local delicacy. Don’t be afraid to ask for substitutes or a side of vegetables to fill you up. You’re not being a pain; you’re doing what you need to do to eat healthily. Don’t feel peer pressured to eat that greasy burger when you want a salad. Most people don’t care what you order. Stick to your guns!
I hope this post inspired you to choose healthy food from restaurants. It can be a challenge at first, but start with the intention and follow the prescribed steps for success. You’ll feel better inside and out.
This post will help you get on track, but it by no means comprehensive. Check out my new program which will give you the daily guidance on preparing meals and eating healthy.
What have you done to eat better at restaurants? Do you have any tips for choosing healthier options or places? What have been some of your best meals? Let me know in the comments!