Your guide to eating healthy while dining out
It's a Friday night and you have plans to go out for dinner with friends. Yay! One hitch though; you still want to stay on track with your nutrition because you have some pretty big goals. Maybe it's staying lean year-round, making sure you hit a protein or fiber goal or simply avoiding food choices that wreak havoc on your digestion. What can you do?
Most people fall on either side of the divide: stay super strict or let it all hang out. The former might get you to your goal faster but at the expense of having some fun or being able to simply unwind and relax. The latter can be great if these dining out instances are rare, but if they happen often they will absolutely get in the way of your goals.
How often you go out to eat (and where you go) makes a big difference here, but if you dine out a couple times per week AND you want to stay on track with nutrition, this guide is perfect for you.
Step 1: Hunger Management
Don’t go out to eat ravenously hungry – your ability to make healthy decisions will be lessened when very hungry. If you haven’t eaten in hours, have a small high protein or high fiber snack before leaving the house such as:
- Scoop of whey isolate in water
- Small apple or handful of berries
- Few carrots or other raw vegetable with hummus
If your hunger level is normal, then you may not need this step. If you constantly find yourself reaching for bread at the dinner table or eating too many appetizers, this step is for you.
Step 2: Stay Hydrated
Practice our hydration strategies always! But when dining out it is just as important and ties in with hunger. Have a large glass of water before leaving the house and continue to sip water during dinner.
Some water with dinner aids the digestion process and adds to the feeling of fullness, helping you control your portions.
While I don't think the saying that you can mistake thirst for hunger is really that valid, consuming some liquids while eating will certainly help to fill the stomach and create additional satiety for the time you are in the restaurant. If it helps with satisfying taste buds and managing calories, diet soda, tea or black coffee are acceptable as well.
Step 3: Check Ahead
Almost all restaurants have their menus online now. Take some time at home before you leave to check out their menu. Do they have:
- A low calorie meal section of the menu
- Grilled and not fried options
- Vegetables you can add on the side
- The option for a bun-less burger or sub a side salad in place of a less healthy side option
Step 4: Decode Restaurant Speak
Restaurants often have key words to clue you into their healthy options vs non-healthy. Often we see something is chicken, potato, broccoli and assume it will be healthy. Look for these words that should set a light off that the item could be hiding hidden fat and sugar calories
- Creamy, fried, sauce, secret sauce, smothered, crispy, crusted, coated, cheesy, stuffed
- Be cautious with items like cheese, fatty proteins, sauces, dressings, nuts, dried fruit, pasta and bread
Dining Out Check List
1. Eat slow
2. Eat until satisfied, not stuffed
3. Keep dressings and sauces on the side or avoid completely
4. Drink plenty of water
5. Think of dining out as part of your life, not a “cheat” meal – you CAN eat healthy and still enjoy a meal. Don’t operate in extremes.
In addition to this guide, in our Facebook Group you can download the FULL color PDF which also includes a super easy and intuitive flow chart to help you make great dining choices. No matter where you eat you can make good choices if you have a plan and some simple strategies.
If you aren't a part of our group yet, click below to join The Strong Kitchen Community and download your free guide: