12-Apr 2014, by Lee Sandwith
For the health conscious among us, eating out at restaurants can be a tricky affair. Encouragingly, more and more places are beginning to cater for the pro-healthy population by offering quality healthy options and it’s becoming more common to find calorie information on menus. That said, eating out healthily can still be a bit of a minefield and one of the biggest challenges can be the potential for friction with some of the less healthy delegates in the social party. Fortunately, there’s a few simple things you can do to ensure you don’t keep yourself locked away at the thought of coming off the rails.
Know your stuff
The first thing anyone looking to make the transition into the healthy sphere is to get a better understanding of what constitutes healthy and what sort of calorie intake you should be shooting for. If you’re already familiar with what’s hot and what’s not then when you’re out and about, try to choose meals which are close to those on your normal meal plan. If you need to brush up on your knowledge it’s time to get started. There’s loads of quality books out there and a pretty stonkingly good eBook available from this very website.
Do some research
If you’re planning on frequenting a new restaurant, it’s not a bad idea to do a bit of research up front. It’s pretty easy to make healthy choices once you know what you’re doing but it’s no good if the restaurant doesn’t cater for what you’re looking for. If you have an idea what you’re likely to order, check out the restaurant’s website before hand or give them a call to get a better understanding of the menu.
Have a small snack before your meal
We’re huge advocates of the ‘grazing approach’ simply because it’s an extremely good way to stop overeating. If you’re hungry you make bad choices so, as a general rule, try to eat every 3-4 hours or so and if you feel yourself getting hungry before you head out for lunch or dinner, grab yourself a quick snack to keep hunger at bay.
Ask a lot of questions
Asking questions in a restaurant may seem a bit daunting but once you’ve done it a few times you’ll realise how good your questions are as 90% of the time the waiter/waitress won’t be able to answer. It’s ok to ask how many calories are in meals (I do it for fun) and it’s certainly not inappropriate to ask how something has been cooked. Fried food is obviously bad but there’s a few hidden dangers, for example, many meals are covered in olive oil which is super high in calories. The simple rule is, if you can’t find the information you need on the menu and have a question, ask someone!
Drink plenty of water
We always seem to be harping on about water but that’s for a number of reasons. In relation to eating out, drinking plenty of water has a couple of specific advantages. Firstly, if you’re feeling a pang of hunger you might actually be thirsty so scratch that itch with a glass of water rather than a basket of prawn crackers. Secondly, drinking water before your meal fills up your stomach so it’s a sure fire way to stop overeating. Pretty much every time I go out the first thing I order is a litre of still water and I drink at least half of it before I eat anything.
Choose this not that
If you’re eating dinner pretty late then it may be wise to stay away from carbs altogether, otherwise, it is always better to choose wholewheat rice, pasta and bread over their white, ‘simple’ carb counterparts. Sweet potatoes are a better alternative to white potatoes and you might be lucky enough to find quinoa or wholewheat cous cous. It’s always a great idea to order extra vegetables, preferably green, but make sure they haven’t been sautéed in lots of oil or you may be consuming lots of ‘hidden calories.
Eat more slowly
This is an absolute no brainer when it comes to preventing overeating as it’s well documented that it takes 20 minutes for your brain to register food after you start eating. As such, make it a rule to eat all of your meals slowly, consciously enjoying every bite and ensuring that it takes you at least 20 minutes to finish. When eating out, challenge yourself to be the last to finish. If you’re a fast eater this can be difficult but if you keep trying this can easily become second nature and will definitely help prevent overeating.
Don’t be pressured
If anyone’s giving you a hard time about the healthy choices you’re making, they’re jealous. End of. Face palm!
Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you’ve chosen the healthy path then you deserve the occasional indulgence so get out there, enjoy your friends’ company and enjoy the world!
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Do you struggle when you’re dining out? Let us know if you have any other tips by leaving a comment.