If you have ever walked in to a restaurant and felt completely lost trying to navigate the menu to find the healthiest option - you are not alone. It's easy to follow a clean diet while you're at home and able to prepare your own meals, but sometimes going out to a new restaurant can feel like reading a foreign language.
First of all, the inspiration for this article came from the fact that I have eaten at Chipotle almost every day this week.
Second, it's a topic I get A LOT of questions about.
How do you make healthy choices when visiting new restaurants?
How do you KNOW what meal will be the "cleanest"?
Do I HAVE to order a salad?
(The answer to that last one is definitely no).
I eat out ALL the time (probably more than I should). But the reality is: life is busy, dining out is social, and the food almost always tastes better when someone else makes it, right?
I don't know about you, but I am not willing to avoid dining out because I am worried there aren't options to fit a healthy lifestyle. Because the truth is: there are ALWAYS healthy options. Here are 8 tips and tricks to help you make the best choices when dining out.
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1. Check the menu before you get there.
Research, research, research! "Know before you go" is the name of the game when it comes to dining out. Most places put their menu online, so take a second on your way to the restaurant to read over the meal options so you don't end up making a quick impulse decision when it comes time to order.
2. Choose the freshest option.
The best part about raw foods: they only have one ingredient. If you choose a salad or nourish bowl, you'll be able to look at the dish, identify individual ingredients, and know exactly what the meal is made of.
3. Ask for sauces and toppings on the side.
Chances are if you were making the meal yourself, you wouldn't use NEAR as much sauce or pile on as much extra cheese. If the meal you are ordering has dressing or toppings you could ask for on the side, do so and only add as much as you normally would.
4. Know what the different cooking terms mean.
Marinated, grilled, sautéed, fried, steamed, broiled, baked, roasted - has anyone else ever felt confused about the differences between these cooking techniques? You can always ask your waiter how the food is cooked, and they should be able to describe the process. But typically, when a food is "marinated" or "sautéed" in something, that's a cue it has been soaked in a sauce or butter. You can save major calories by opting for steamed, broiled, baked, and roasted food options.
5. Eat a small snack before.
If you know you're headed out to eat a big dinner, grab a handful of veggies before you leave or start with a side salad once you get to the restaurant. Filling up on nourishing, fibrous greens will decrease the likelihood that you will overeat on your main dish (or feel tempted to order dessert).
6. Sip on water.
While you are waiting for your food, order a tall glass of ice water and just sip on it. A lot of times, people mistake being thirsty for feeling hungry.
7. Eat slowly.
Eating slowly helps with digestion and satisfaction following a meal. Try to take your time and focus on enjoying the taste of each bite.
8. Be aware of portion sizes and don't be afraid to ask for a to-go box.
Most of the time, restaurant portion sizes are much larger than they should be. Don't be afraid to ask for the lunch portion size or have your waiter bring a to-go box at the start of the meal. If you know your dish will be way too big for you to consume in one sitting, measure out how much you know you should eat and put the rest in the box to go before you start eating. Eat as you normally would and stop when you are 80% full, not over-stuffed
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Where are some of your favorite restaurants and how do you make healthy choices when dining out? Leave a comment below or on my latest Instagram post @samanthabowers_.