As a registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of Vitality Nutrition and Wellness Center, many clients come in with questions about how to stick to a healthy diet while dining out. Many clients complain they “fall off the wagon” when they go out to eat and wonder how they can manage eating out and sticking to a healthy meal plan.
It can be difficult to stick to a healthy diet when eating out for a myriad of reasons. The biggest reason is many restaurants encourage overeating by serving super sized portions on large plates. Many restaurants are serving enough for 3 meals on a single plate! Research has shown that when individuals are served a larger meal they tend to overeatand underestimate the amount of food that has been eaten. Portion sizes have doubled and tripled over the years leading to unwanted weight gain and undesired health outcomes like diabetes, heartburn, constipation and many more. If we could see what we ate we would probably eat less.
Other reasons that make it difficult: clean your plate mentality, alcohol consumption, and social pressures. It is more important for people to understand their hunger and satiety cues than to clean their plate. When a person has a few drinks, making healthy sound judgements is compromised and the diet plan usually goes out the window. Lastly, when eating out with others who do not make healthy choices when ordering, individuals are more likely to compromise their own desires and eat like the group.
Good news is it is possible to eat out and still stick to a healthy meal plan! Fortunately more restaurants are including healthier options and menu items to accommodate special diets e.g. vegetarian and gluten free.
Here are a few tips for diners on how to eat healthy while dining out:
- Review the menu online. You can find a healthy option that fits into your healthy meal plan.
- Ask the server to bring a take out container when he/she brings your entrée. You will be able to portion your meal and are less likely to overeat.
- Ask questions e.g. how is the meal prepared? Is the produce locally sourced? Do you make your own salad dressings or sauces, etc.
- Ask for your food to be grilled or baked instead of fried and your vegetables steamed or sautéed lightly in oil.
- Order plenty of vegetables.
- Beverages count! Drink low calorie drinks e.g. water, sparkling water or unsweetened ice tea.
- If you must order dessert, share with someone at the table
- REMEMBER ask yourself “am I full? or am I satisfied?” every few bites.
You don’t have to decline lunch dates or dinner outings to stay on track! Remember to pay attention to your hunger and satiety cues, beverages count, and go to restaurants that offer a wide variety of healthy options. Try one of these tips next time you go out! If your dietary habits could use more than just the tips listed, schedule an individual nutrition counseling appointment today or attend one of our upcoming group nutrition classes!