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How to Make Smart Choices when Dining Out: Tips for Eating Healthy | Balance

How to Make Healthy Choices When Eating Out

Eating out is a fun and sociable activity, but it can often lead to overeating and poor food choices. However, with a few clever tips and strategies, you can still enjoy dining out while sticking to your health goals. In this article, we will provide you with 20 practical tips to help you make healthier choices when eating out. By following these tips, you can maintain a balanced diet without sacrificing your social life.

1. Familiarize Yourself with the Menu

Before you even step foot in a restaurant, take the time to read the menu. Familiarizing yourself with the options beforehand can help you make healthier choices. When we are hungry or distracted, we tend to make impulsive decisions that may not align with our health goals. By reviewing the menu in advance, you can plan your meal and avoid snap decisions that you might regret later.

Pro Tip: If you're unsure about the menu, research the restaurant online. Many establishments now provide their menus on their websites, allowing you to make an informed decision before you arrive.

2. Eat a Healthy Snack Beforehand

Arriving at a restaurant hungry can often lead to overeating. To prevent this, have a healthy snack before you head out. Opt for a low-calorie, high-protein snack like yogurt, which can help you feel fuller and curb your appetite. Research has shown that eating a snack before a meal can prevent overeating and help you make healthier choices.

Scientific Insight: A study found that individuals who consumed a low-calorie, high-protein snack before a meal consumed fewer calories and lost more weight compared to those who didn't have a snack.

3. Stay Hydrated with Water

Drinking water before and during a meal is a fantastic way to stay hydrated and reduce calorie intake. Replace sugary drinks with water to cut down on calories and added sugars. Research has shown that drinking water before a meal can lead to consuming fewer calories and aid in weight loss.

Scientific Insight: A study found that individuals who drank 500 ml of water 30 minutes before a meal consumed fewer calories and lost 44% more weight compared to those who didn't.

4. Choose Healthy Cooking Methods

The way food is cooked can significantly impact its calorie content. Opt for dishes that have been steamed, grilled, roasted, or poached, as these cooking methods generally involve less fat and fewer calories. On the other hand, dishes described as pan-fried, fried, crispy, crunchy, or sautéed tend to be higher in fat and calories.

5. Practice Mindful Eating

Mindful eating involves making conscious choices about what you consume and paying full attention to the eating process. Take the time to savor the aromas and flavors of your meal, as well as the thoughts and feelings that arise while you eat. Research has shown that mindful eating can lead to healthier food choices and improved self-control, preventing overeating.

Scientific Insight: Studies have linked mindful eating with healthier food choices in restaurants and improved self-control.

6. Be Aware of Social Influence

In social situations, people tend to subconsciously mimic each other, including their menu choices and eating behaviors. When dining out with a group, be mindful of how others' choices may influence your own. If you know that the group is likely to order dishes that don't align with your health goals, make sure to order first and set a positive example.

Check out our latest collaboration video with Myprotein on how you can eat healthier while out and about!

7. Be Mindful of Portion Sizes

Portion sizes at restaurants are often larger than what we actually need. Studies have shown that people tend to overeat when served larger portions. If you find yourself at a restaurant known for its large portions, consider ordering two appetizers instead of a main course. This way, you can still enjoy a variety of flavors without going overboard on calories.

8. Eat Slowly and Chew Thoroughly

Chewing your food thoroughly and eating slowly can help you eat less and feel full more quickly. By counting a minimum number of chews per mouthful and putting your utensils down between bites, you can slow down your eating pace and give your satiety signals time to kick in. This can lead to a reduced calorie intake and prevent overeating.

9. Navigate Buffets Wisely

Buffets can be a challenge when it comes to portion control. To avoid overeating, use a smaller plate if available. Research has shown that using a smaller plate can help you eat less. Another effective strategy is to fill half of your plate with salad or vegetables, as these low-calorie options can help you feel full without consuming excess calories.

Scientific Insight: Many people don't consume enough vegetables, which are low in calories but rich in fiber and nutrients. Increasing vegetable intake has been linked to a reduced risk of various diseases.

10. Make Smart Substitutions

When ordering your meal, don't be afraid to ask for substitutions. For example, swap fries or potatoes for extra vegetables or a salad. This simple swap can boost your vegetable intake and reduce calorie consumption. Additionally, ask for sauces and dressings to be served on the side, allowing you to control the amount you consume.

Healthy Tip: Sauces and dressings can add a significant amount of fat and calories to a dish. By having them on the side, you can enjoy the flavors without overloading on unhealthy ingredients.

11. Choose Beverages Wisely

Beverages can contribute a significant number of calories to your meal, especially when they are sugar-sweetened or alcoholic. Stick to water or unsweetened tea as healthy drink choices. If you do choose to consume alcohol, be mindful of the calorie content. Opt for smaller measures or mix spirits with diet drinks instead of sugar-sweetened options.

Scientific Insight: Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages is strongly linked to an increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

12. Opt for Tomato or Vegetable-Based Sauces

When it comes to sauces, choose tomato- or vegetable-based options over creamy or cheese-based ones. These healthier alternatives can help cut down on calories and fat while adding more vegetables to your meal. By opting for these sauces, you can enjoy flavorful dishes without sacrificing your health goals.

13. Be Wary of Menu Labels

Menu labels such as "paleo," "gluten-free," or "sugar-free" don't necessarily mean a choice is healthy. Added sugars and fats can be hidden in these foods to enhance taste. Read menu descriptions thoroughly to ensure you understand what you're ordering. If you have any doubts, don't hesitate to ask your server for further information.

14. Allow for Flexibility

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle doesn't mean you have to completely restrict yourself from indulging in your favorite foods. Being flexible and allowing for occasional treats can contribute to better overall health and weight management. As long as you follow healthy eating patterns most of the time, you can enjoy occasional indulgences guilt-free.

15. Remember to Enjoy Your Meal

While it's important to make healthy choices when eating out, it's equally important to enjoy your meal. Food is not just about nourishment; it's also about pleasure and shared experiences. So, savor the flavors, appreciate the company, and embrace the joy of dining out.

In conclusion, making healthy choices when eating out doesn't have to be difficult or restrictive. By familiarizing yourself with the menu, eating a healthy snack beforehand, staying hydrated with water, choosing healthy cooking methods, practicing mindful eating, being aware of social influence, minding portion sizes, eating slowly and chewing thoroughly, navigating buffets wisely, making smart substitutions, choosing beverages wisely, opting for tomato or vegetable-based sauces, being wary of menu labels, allowing for flexibility, and remembering to enjoy your meal, you can maintain a balanced diet while still enjoying the experience of dining out. So, go ahead and make healthier choices that align with your health goals without giving up your social life. Bon appétit!

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