Eating Out and Eating Right
Working long hours, leading a hectic lifestyle, and traveling can certainly be obstacles to eating healthy. But these don’t have to be excuses for not eating well, and you can certainly overcome these challenges with a little extra planning and focus. No matter what your schedule is, and how many times a week you eat out in restaurants and hotels, you can still make healthy food choices and control portions.
Eating out in restaurants frequently can be difficult if you are trying to manage your weight. First, the portion you end up eating in a restaurant is a lot bigger than what you would eat at home. Second, you may not know all the ingredients used in the preparation of the meal – it could be very high in oil or sugar. When you eat at home you know exactly what you are having because you prepare it yourself and you can see the contents of the food on the back of package. So eating at home for the first part of your new healthy lifestyle will help you manage your weight. But for some who have to eat in restaurants and order hotel room service because of work, it is important to keep some guidelines for eating out. Here are some helpful tips for eating out and eating right.
If you know you will have a very busy week at work, or that you have a business trip coming up soon, plan ahead before your schedule gets too crazy to think about eating healthily. Go to the grocery store and stock up on healthy snacks and food you can pack and take with you on the go. When your week gets filled up with meetings and appointments you may not have time to eat properly, so pack some healthy food in your bag to get you through the day without starving and likely overeating at dinner. Nuts and dried fruit are a great combination – delicious, nutritious, and easy to pack and store. My favorite combinations are almonds with golden raisins, walnuts with prunes, pecans with dried apricots, and hazelnuts with black raisins. Also a piece of fruit like an apple or banana will give you a good energy boost when you’re tired and help diminish hunger while you are waiting for the next meal. Carrying healthy snacks with you is great when you are traveling and cannot find anything healthy at the airport, or when you have that hideous tray of airline food shoved in front of you at 30,000 feet.
If you must eat out late, eat beforehand
Eating after 8 pm may not be the best thing for controlling your weight, but sometimes there’s just no way of getting around that. Most social and business dinners only start at around 8 and by the time you order and finish eating it can be well after 10! When I know I have a late dinner planned, I eat a small piece of fruit or a cup of low-fat yoghurt before going out for dinner. It fills me up just a little, and makes me eat less at the restaurant. After dinner, I try not to lie down for at least 2 hours to help my body better digest the food.
Don’t finish what’s on the plate
Because restaurant portions tend to be bigger than what you would eat at home, make it a rule to only finish about 80 per cent of what’s on your plate. If you’re constantly eating out, leaving part of your meal on the plate can help you shave down extra calories and keep you within your daily limit.
Go for special requests
Don’t be afraid to ask the waiter how a meal is prepared, and feel free to ask that it be made with no butter, less oil, or no sugar. Most restaurants will be happy to accommodate your request. Sometimes I request to replace a part of my order with a healthier alternative. Instead of fries, I ask for steamed veggies, or instead of white rice I ask if they have brown rice.
Skip the alcohol
You tend to consume more calories when you eat out at restaurants because the food is often prepared with fattening ingredients such as creamy sauces, coconut milk, and butter. If you decide to add an alcoholic drink to your meal, you can easily rack up the calories. Remember alcohol is very high in calories, so either skip it all together, or substitute it for starch – have the drink, but don’t eat the starch (rice, bread, potatoes, noodles, etc).
Watch out for starters and desserts
Don’t be negatively influenced by your dining partners who go all out with heavy appetizers, a main course and a decadent dessert to top it all off. Instead set a good example for others with a very light starter such as a salad with dressing on the side, or non-fried hors d’oeuvres (a piece of fried appetizer can be as high as 100 calories each); then for the main course go for words like baked, steamed, and grilled; and finally opt for some fruit for dessert. Certainly others will appreciate your concern for your health and hopefully even go along with you.
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