Being healthy when you go out can be very simple, as long as you know…
Tips when eating out
Being healthy doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice everything, including your social life. In fact, it’s important to adapt some of the “normal” aspects of your lifestyle, so you develop skills that will help you maintain a healthy weight long term. Sometimes one of the most daunting experiences in a weight loss journey is dining out – but it shouldn’t be completely avoided.
Eating out at a restaurant or ordering takeaway meals can be a trap for taking in extra calories or kilojoules, often due to the higher fat content of restaurant meals. We are also more likely to overeat, as we are served larger portions with fewer vegetables, mirror the eating patterns of those around us, or finish the meal to get value for money.
However, there are a few basics that can help prevent eating out becoming a sabotage to your weight loss efforts.
- Plan in advance – where are you eating? Check the restaurant menu before you go, or if you have simply forgotten your lunch, it helps to know where to find the healthiest options around your workplace.
- Differentiate between everyday eating out and special occasions – if you have booked a special restaurant, then use this as an occasion to dress up and enjoy the company as well. If you eat out regularly for business for example, make sure you are compensating for extra kilojoules elsewhere, and keeping check on whether you can reduce portions or increase your activity to balance things out.
- Don’t be afraid to ask – find out how the food is cooked, ask for less oil/butter or dressings served on the side, and request vegetables or salad instead of chips.
- Check how food is cooked – look for options that have been steamed, grilled, poached and avoid foods that are fried, sautéed, stewed or have sauces based on cream, cheese or heavy dressings.
- Don’t go anywhere hungry – have a healthy snack 1-2 hours before hand which will allow you to be satisfied with a smaller portion and to take your time with your choices, rather than skipping the meal before in an effort to reduce your intake across the day.
- Be smart with your drinks – Choose water or sparkling water, and if you choose to drink alcohol, plan ahead to not overdo it.
- Order first – other people’s orders or discussions can influence our choices, as subconsciously in social situations we tend to mimic our peers.
- Don’t order all three courses – unless sharing of course! Ordering a soup or salad first can help to control the portion you eat at the main meal. Sharing meals with others can help with cutting back calories, e.g. ordering a tomato based pasta and a green salad to share between two.
- Eat mindfully – make conscious choices and give your full attention to your meal, take the time to taste what you have ordered and enjoy it. This will help again with self-control, and recognising when you are eating faster or eating more simply because those around you are as well.
These easy steps should show that eating out doesn’t always have to be unhealthy. Most of all, it’s important to think about eating out in the context of your whole diet. Sometimes it is okay to eat for pleasure and taste rather than worry about whether you are choosing the healthiest option on the menu – including indulgences occasionally is okay provided your meal pattern is healthier overall.