P's Restaurant Roadmap - 6 Tips For Dining Out
Before the age of constant snacking and absent-mindedly eating while distracted by technology, mealtime used to be a ritual. In most cultures, this is still the case. Meals are meant to be enjoyed with family and friends as a form of socializing and bonding. We know this to be true especially this time of year, what with all the holidays coming up.
While there are a number of ways you can easily cook up a healthy meal to be shared at home, dining out can be a bit trickier. While there is a big shift happening in the restaurant scene, with many health-oriented spots opening up and regulations requiring restaurants to be more transparent with nutritional content, we still don’t always know what ingredients are being used, or how much.
That said, I’m certainly not going to tell you to decline all your holiday dinner events and stay in every night (though I do love cozy nights at home, personally). I am simply here to help you learn how to order smarter and break bad dining habits, so that you can accept those invitations without hesitation or worry!
1. Be prepared
Check the menu online beforehand, so you can plan a healthy, balanced meal in advance instead of impulsively ordering something bad that you’ve been craving.
2. Have a Snack at Home
Most poor food decisions—think diving into the bread basket!—happen because you’re starving. This leaves you much more likely to be tempted to order food you’d usually know to avoid. To kick this habit, I suggest having a healthy snack at home beforehand. A small salad with greens like arugula, lemon, olive oil and balsamic vinegar; a tablespoon of hummus with a few celery or carrot sticks; steamed leftover veggies, or fresh berries are all great choices to help tide you over.
3. Don’t be afraid to grill the wait staff
You’d be hard-pressed to find a restaurant that can’t make accommodations, especially with the rise of specialty diets and food intolerances we’re seeing these days. Be sure to ask as many questions as you need to ensure you’re ordering the meal the way you want it. Some good rules of thumb are to ask for grilled, not fried; no butter, or substitute with olive oil; light or no salt; sauce or dressing on the side. You can also usually ask to swap out unhealthy sides for something more wholesome, such as swapping fries for a side salad, or swapping goat cheese for avocado (a more nutrient dense fat source). Some restaurants even offer a whole alternative menu that they just don’t show you unless you ask—so always ask!
4. Eat your veggies first!
Always start with veggies to ensure you’re getting the recommended daily dose. Not only do veggies pack powerful nutrients and vitamins for optimal health, but they are packed with fiber. I’ve said it before, but it deserves repeating, great digestion is king. Eating foods with fiber helps promote healthy gut bacteria and a healthy digestive track. It also helps to keep you feeling satiated, while also slowing the release of carbs into your blood stream and managing your blood sugar levels. In other words, fiber is what keeps you from feeling the need to eat again soon after your meal, so don’t shy away! And if you find some veggies make you bloated, be sure to read my post on banishing bloat and finding the right veggies for you!
5. A.B.C—Avoid butter and condiments
These are the main culprits that can turn a healthy meal into a disaster by greatly increasing your calorie intake and adding unnecessary fat. As previously mentioned, you can ask to swap out condiments (ex. vinegar, fresh lemon and olive oil instead of salad dressing) or ask for it to be on the side and use very sparingly, or not at all. Most restaurants over dress and leave our food drenched in these excessively sweetened, sugary (albeit delicious) sauces, which leave us feeling stuffed and yet still wanting more. This is only masking the taste of our food and not allowing our brains or taste buds to get used to and enjoy the taste of real wholesome foods.
6. Never join the clean plate club
Restaurant meals are typically 2-3 times larger than necessary. Do not feel obligated to finish everything. Instead, take it to go! You can enjoy it for lunch the next day—or share it with someone else. This is one of my favorite ways to not only save money, but to try different options on the menu!
I'd love to hear your thoughts on these tips, and if you have any of your own to share with the community! Leave a note in the comments below, on instagram, or in the P.volve streamers Facebook group.
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