Now that many more of us are venturing out to restaurants both local and, as we travel, around the world, the simple act of dining out can sometimes feel overwhelming. How do you know what to order or how to ensure you aren’t consuming more than you need to stay healthy and maintain a desirable weight? The following smorgasbord of tips is courtesy of The Ranch Malibu, an acclaimed, results-oriented fitness retreat centered around the principles of endurance, nutrition and wellness. Programs are designed to immerse guests in nature and recalibrate the mind and body through an intense fitness and wellness regimen paired with a highly structured plant-based, nutritional diet. Buen provecho!
1. Choose a healthy restaurant. Where you dine makes a difference.
a) While they are certainly not as prevalent as they once were, avoid “all you can eat” or buffets.
b) Avoid Happy Hours where bar food is fried. Instead, opt for places you know serve fresh snacks such as veggies and dip.
c) Check out the restaurants web site in advance so you know what is available and that they offer dishes that suite your food preferences
2. Before you go
– Don’t leave the house hungry. One or two hours before going out, have a small healthy snack (piece of fruit or fresh veggies) to avoid arriving at the restaurant starving.
– Stay hydrated. Cravings or feeling of hunger often occur when we are dehydrated so drink plenty of water throughout the day.
3. Upon arrival
– Skip fancy sugary drinks that pack high calories.
– Ask for the bread basket to be removed from the table
– Tell your survey you are most interested in their healthy options and ask for suggestions.
– When you discover a restaurant the meets your needs, give them positive feedback
4. Navigating the menu
– Avoid anything described as buttery, buttered, breaded, fried, pan-fried, sautéed, creamy, scalloped, au gratin, etc.
– Opt for dishes described with words including grilled, baked, steamed, boiled, poaches, roasted, blackened
– Avoid: sauces made with milk or cream, cheese, mayonnaise (aioli) etc.
– Opt for: tomato or broth-based sauces. Ask for sauces served on the side.
5. Start smart
– Avoid appetizers that are fried, creamy, cheesy
– Opt for broth-based soup, small salad with dressing on the side, steamed seafood or smoked salmon, small vegetable tray. Guacamole is healthy but high in calories so don’t overdo it. Instead of the chips, requests a warm cord tortilla. Explain that chips are too salty and most Mexican restaurants will be happy to accommodate the request.
6. Soup & Salad
– Salad bar: Avoid cheese, creamy dressing, bacon, croutons, pasta salad, potato salad, fried noodles, coleslaw. Opt for a variety of veggies.
– Dressing: Ask for dressing on the side. Many restaurants will bring you oil and vinegar to drizzle on the salad (easy on the oil.)
– Soup: Avoid creamy soups such as chowder or bisque. Opt for broth-based options such as gazpacho, consommé, minestrone. Bean or pea soups (lentils, black bean, split peas etc) are higher in calories but packed with nutrients.
– Don’t be shy about asking questions or making requests to support your healthy dining experience
– Try ordering a la carte. For example, you might be quite satisfied with two or 3 a la carte fish tacos without all the extra rice and beans that come with a combo meal.
– Order a side of grilled or steamed vegetables. Almost any restaurant can accommodate this.
– Oder fish (not fried) with veggies and sauce served on the side.
– Vegetarian is not always healthier as options can be loaded with cheese, cream or nuts. Go for the veggies meals that are mostly raw.
8. Portion distortion
– Instead of ordering a full meal, try the following: Order two appetizers OR appetizer plus a soup or salad. Order a soup or salad plus share an entrée with your dining companion. If ordering a full entrée, ask for half to be boxed before the meal is brought to the table to you can enjoy it later or the following day.
– When half the food on your plate is gone, stop for a moment and ask yourself “am I still hungry?” If the answer is “no” then STOP eating and ask for the remainder on your plate to be boxed to enjoy when you are actually hungry again.
9. Desserts is “stressed” spelled backwards. Keep the following in mind:
– Do you really want dessert? If not, skip it.
– Finish the meal with an herbal, caffeine-free tea.
– Order a fresh fruit option such as fresh berries
– If the table is sharing a dessert, go ahead have a taste, savor it, then sit back and let your dining companion(s) enjoy.
10. Slow down and savor
– Sip water throughout the meal
– Enjoy the company and the conversation
– Set down your fork between bites and chew each bit thoroughly
– Remember that you are eating for nourishment, not just to fill your tummy and satiate your cravings. Celebrate the process of giving your body nutrients for optimum health.
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