Is it possible to eat out without blowing your nutrition plan?
Yes! There are no bad meals, just bad diets as a whole.
If there are twenty-one meals (breakfasts, lunches and suppers) per week, even if two of them were total nutritional disasters you would still score over ninety percent on your diet if the other nineteen meals were reasonably healthy. Funny enough, I rarely meet people that look at the big picture of their total diet like this. What is your score this week out of twenty-one?
If you are like me and only eat out occasionally, find freedom in enjoying whatever you want. If, however, you eat out regularly for lunches at work, or quite a few suppers per week, it really is key for your health to be mindful of your choices.
What makes eating out challenging?
- Someone else controls the menu, quality of the food, and cooking methods.
- Larger portions than we have at home, or than what our body needs, may be served which can contribute extra calories.
- Meals are often high-fat to contribute flavor, but as a result can substantially increase calories. Often higher amounts of saturated and trans fats are used which are negative for heart health.
- Restaurant and fast food meals are usually high in sodium. In some cases, one meal may have more sodium than is recommended per day for health.
- Often bigger portions of carbohydrate rich foods, than would be optimal for weight management and diabetes, are served. Big portions of starchy foods such as bread, pasta, or rice, and large bottomless cups of pop are cheap and consumers perceive large volume as good value.
- Often meals are low in higher-fibre choices such as whole grains and vegetables and fruits, all of which are good for long-term health.
Consider the S’s of eating out:
- SELECT the “right” place. This is a place that firstly offers healthy choices and secondly a place you are willing to make these choices.
- SCAN the website in advance. Most fast food outlets and franchises post nutrition data about their menu on their website. Check out your favorite choices and compare other options.
- SAY what you would like! You have more choice than you think; all you have to do is ask.
- SAUCES & SPREADS on the side or skip. Reducing dressings, mayonnaise, butter or margarine can substantially decrease calories and fat in your meal.
- SUBSTITUTIONS? Most places offer choice in your sides such as salad, soup, or steamed veggies in place of fries.
- SHARE with a friend. This is a good way to eat less of higher-calorie items but still enjoy a taste.
- SUPPLEMENT part of the meal? Try buying part of your meal at breakfast or lunch and bringing harder to find or more expensive items such as a fruit or raw veggies.
- SMALLER options? In restaurants, go for an appetizer-size rather than meal-size or try a half-order instead of a full-order.
- SAVE some for later. Take some home for tomorrow or if you often tempted to overeat, ask for half your restaurant meal to be packaged up before it even arrives.
- SLURP sensibly. Think about what and how much pop, iced tea, wine, beer and cocktails you are drinking.
- SNACK before. Nibble on something nutritious before you eat out to avoid getting too hungry and overeating.
- “SPEND” soulful foods wisely. Budget soulful foods chosen for enjoyment, rather than nutrition, just like you manage your cash flow. Splurge on your favorites and save on others that are less important to you.
When to be flexible
I personally live by the philosophy that when you are on your own, eat your best. It is more difficult to make good choices with your family on Friday pizza night or when going out for lunch with coworkers. When you are eating socially, have some fun, be flexible, and go with the flow.