Looking over a restaurant menu can be overwhelming. You may not know what you want or which options meet your body’s nutrient needs in the best way possible. It is true that you can eat healthy foods while eating out. You just have to know how to choose the right options for your body.
- Look for meals that contain all of the food groups (in the right proportions).
Find something that offers protein, grains, fruits, vegetables and dairy. For example a healthy meal could be steak and a baked potato with green beans and a yogurt, fruit mix for desert. Fish/chicken and brown rice/pasta with a salad, orange, and glass of milk would also be a great option. Even a low-sugar fruit smoothie and a turkey-tomato-avocado-Swiss cheese sandwich with whole grain bread meets these goals. It can be more difficult to tell in what amounts each food group is present in dishes that are all mixed together. Just do you best and be satisfied in your selection or plan to fill in the gaps when you find yourself hungry later that evening.
- Don’t drink unnecessary calories.
Choose water or milk as your beverage instead of soda or juice. Sodas and juices are calorie dense and do not offer many nutrients. More often than not, they can leave you feeling more thirsty than before because they do contain sugars, sweeteners, excess calories and the like. Drinking low-fat milk instead supplies your body with many nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, and riboflavin that sodas and juices cannot.Water is one of the very best options. Water alone or water with lemon, berries, or herbs hydrates your body with no added sugar and is even easy on the wallet.
- Restaurants often serve very large portions.
The National Institute of Health claims that restaurant portions have doubled, some have even tripled, over the last two decades. The Huffington Post reports that 96% of chain restaurants in the U.S. have entrées that exceed what the USDA recommends for fat, saturated fat and sodium intake. One of the best ways to curb the issue of overconsuming calories and feeling absolutely stuffed is to eat only half or three-quarters of what is served. The remaining portion can be taken home and eaten for lunch the next day. You can even plan to share an entree with someone else and, in addition, each order a side salad.
A few overall guidelines for choosing the best foods at restaurants:
- Choose meats that are baked or grilled instead of fried or battered. If you do not know how the meat is cooked, just ask and request an alternative method if necessary.
- Look for a French fry alternative that you enjoy. Baked, broiled, mashed, or herb roasted potatoes are all great choices. You could go a completely different route and replace French Fries with a whole grain (brown or wild rice, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, barley, oatmeal or popcorn).
- For foods that are smothered in cheese or sauces, ask for the sauce on the side and use only a portion of it to top your dish.