Keeping nutrition in mind doesn't mean that you can't have any fun! Healthy dietary decisions can be challenging when you're out and about, and we all deserve to treat ourselves once and a while. But you don't have to let a nice lunch or a night out throw you off a fitness program!
There are a few simple tips & tricks to keep in mind when dining out, and making informed decisions will ultimately help you advance towards your fitness goals - don't get me wrong, this can take practice! There's nothing wrong with a little indulgence on occasion, though some of us have a particularly hard time resisting delicious food temptations. If you're looking for suggestions, I've got advice!
Think about where you'll be eating and what kind of food is served at a restaurant before going out. Consider a place with a wide range of meal options - a lot of restaurants provide online menus that you can check out before arrival, and an app like Yelp makes it easy to search for healthy eats in the area. You'll be less tempted by the fitness-unfriendly food if you've already decided what you're going to order ahead of time.
Some occasions, like traveling, can practically force us to dine out for every meal. You can prepare for situations like this by keeping an easy snack pack ready with foods like dried fruits/vegetables and nuts.
Avoiding unhealthy meal choices becomes a lot more challenging if you arrive at a restaurant after avoiding food all day, though sometimes life happens and we might forget to keep up with a scheduled eating habit. If this is the case, and you arrive at a restaurant ready to order half the menu, try starting off with a couple of vegetable or protein-based appetizers - and ask your server to skip the bread basket! By the time your blood sugar has leveled off a bit, you'll be more likely to order a healthier entree (that is, if you're still hungry after those starters).
Have a glass of water with a bit of lemon before you order! Water can take up some space in your stomach, which buys you more time to weigh the menu options and think about how you'll feel after consuming different kinds of foods. Your digestive system and metabolism will be activated by the lemon, making the food you eat easier to process!
Many restaurants serve portion sizes that are big enough for two people, so you can avoid overeating by ordering smaller portions (or a lunch-sized portion if available), splitting a meal with someone else, or saving part of the meal to take home for later. You might consider asking your server to bring a to-go box with the food, this way you can put some of the meal away beforehand and savor the dish that remains in front of you.
Any meal's nutritional value can be elevated by ordering a big side of vegetables - ask about the restaurant's seasonal selection or specials for the day! Doubling the size of a side dish usually doesn't cost much more, and since a lot of dining establishments prepare vegetables with a little extra flare, the veggies will help fill you up and make you feel good about your food choices!
Ask for a salad with dressing on the side to replace less healthy healthy options when ordering a combination meal. Restaurants will usually honor this request, so don't hesitate to make requests in order to satisfy nutritional needs. It's important to know how a dish is prepared - whether fried, grilled, steamed, breaded, or otherwise. If an item is fried, it's probably best to avoid this option or ask about alternative preparation methods.
Menu descriptions alone might not contain a great deal of nutritional information. For example, a seafood meal that seems like a healthy choice may still contain a great deal of butter, and a lot of sauces are packed with sugar and/or salt. "Lite" can be a particularly deceptive word: this does not mean that a meal is necessarily healthy for you. Remember to read between the lines!
When ordering an alcoholic drink, skip the frilly options if you're trying to keep on track with your health program. Alcohol is a big reason why many people don't see fitness results as quickly as they'd hoped to! All alcohol is empty calories, but drinks like margaritas and martinis include sugary additions that only add to the caloric factor. If you're going to have a drink, consider a light beer, wine, or a vodka tonic. You can catch a little buzz and still be in the safe zone with your nutrition plan!
Keep it tasty, keep it healthy. Opt out of creamy dressings or "salads" where this is an inherent feature (Caesar salad, coleslaw, pasta/potato salads), and skip the fried bits, bacon, croutons, and cheese. The more raw veggies the better! Add in some well-drained marinated vegetables, lean protein, fruit, nuts, and citrus squeezes. Delicious salads do exist, this is a good realm to practice your culinary creativity and inquire about a restaurant's most-requested salads, and include/subtract some ingredients from different selections.
Fork-dip it! Ask for dressing on the side, and rather than coating your plate with it, dip your empty fork into the dressing then skewer your salad. The ingredients of your meal won't get soggy and wilted this way, and you might be surprised at how good so little dressing can taste.
Choosing healthy meal options and light snacks, wherever you might be throughout the day, will give your body the steady supply of nutrients it needs to stay active, energized, and functioning efficiently (as well as keep you on track with the 30-day calendar program)!
Making balanced food choices takes practice, but once you realize how good it feels to provide the body with proper nutrition, you'll understand why I always emphasize that food is essential for fitness! My Nutrition Plans give you the tools you need to make a habit out of healthy choices!
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