How to keep your healthy eating plan in check when eating out
Making healthy eating and dining choices can be tough, especially for busy parents and professionals. These tips should help you eat well and feel good — no matter where you eat.
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You will surely be challenged at some point or another with dining in a restaurant or buying takeout food. This is very common for busy professionals working long hectic hours who don't look forward to coming home and still having to cook. It is also a usual practice to see clients or conduct meetings in restaurants. In countries where cheap cooked food is widely available on every street corner, like Singapore, this is especially so.
When you cook at home, you are able to gain maximum control over your food intake, making sure that you keep your calorie amounts in check and the ingredients you use are nutrient dense. When you dine out, you are at the mercy of another person – the chef – and you could walk away overly full, having consumed much more than intended.
Dining out and eating takeaway food can really set back your overall health targets if you aren’t careful, which is why learning how to choose nutritious, low-calorie foods from any menu is a must. When you make smart decisions like the ones listed below, you can walk away from any eating establishment with your healthy eating plan in check. Especially keep this in mind if you are going through a big life transition, such as moving abroad.
- Avoid deep fried foods. This one is self-explanatory, although understandably difficult. Fried potatoes, fried onions, chicken-fried steak – anything cooked in a heavy dose of oil should be avoided.
- Try to stay away from cream sauces. Any sort of sauce based in heavy cream or butter is going to be denser in fat and calories. If ordering pasta for example, tomato-based sauces or olive oil would be a better option.
Be wary of appetizers. Most contain more calories than a single entrée!
Choose grilled chicken and other lean protein when in doubt. Chicken is one of the leanest protein sources to opt for.
Anything breaded will contain both saturated fat and simple sugars, a double whammy! Don’t indulge in the breadbasket either. This can add hundreds of calories to your meal, especially when slathered in butter.
For a side dish, choose steamed vegetables.
Try broth-based soups rather than creamy varieties.
Order the salad dressing on the side. Add it yourself sparingly so that you can control how much you use. Try to use only half of what’s provided, if not less.
Request a few of the fixings off the salad. Croutons, cheese, noodles and candied nuts can all increase the calorie content of your salad. Salads make a great choice for a lunch meal but only when prepared with health in mind.
- Ask for the 'light' version of a sauce when ordering stir fry dishes. Most chefs add way too much sauce, significantly increasing the sodium content.
- Most restaurant desserts contain at least 800 calories. If you must have dessert for a celebration or special occasion, split one between 3 or 4 people to control the portion. Keep in mind that fruit is a much better option for dessert.
- Order water instead of your usual beverage choice.
- Choose lean cuts of steak like sirloin. But try to avoid large meat portion sizes in general. A generous serving of veggies on the side will help keep you full.
- Order a kid’s size or half order when possible. Most restaurants serve two or three times as much as an actual recommended serving, especially for noodle and rice dishes, so a half portion still gets you plenty of food – and a smaller bill. If this is not available, get them to divide one order into 2 separate boxes so you can bring the other half to work for lunch the next day.
These quick tips will help you feel comfortable and confident when eating out or ordering takeaway. Being on a healthy eating plan need not mean skipping social events. Just make sure that you keep these suggestions in mind as you look through the menu and decide what to order. Don’t take your choice lightly - a bad decision could easily mean taking in well over 1500 calories with just that one meal, which for many people is almost the total goal for the whole day!
This guest post is written by Ireland-base Dr. Denise Karlyn Hee, a medical doctor practicing nutrigenomic medicine and certified integrative nutrition health coach. If you’d like to find out more about this topic or consult with Dr. Denise, feel free to message her via her RingMD profile (profile here).
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