Whether you eat at restaurants once a month or a few times a week, you shouldn’t leave all of your healthy sensibilities at the front door. Sure, dining out is a treat. But let’s face it: it’s just a meal (one of three for the day!) and not a reason to overindulge. So put those pants with the adjustable waistband away for good and follow these easy tips for healthy dining out success.
1. Skip the Bread
We’ve all been there. Ravenous and restless, you dive into a warm basket of bread as soon as it lands on your table. What with a bowl of delicately whipped butter or a plate overflowing with garlicky olive oil included, how can you possibly resist? Easy, by keeping in mind that eating refined carbs on an empty stomach can cause blood sugar levels to spike, leaving you less satisfied and hungry shortly after you’re done eating your meal.
Healthy Tips: Walking into a restaurant that hungry is never a good scene, so grab an apple or a handful of nuts before you even head out to help curb impulsive eating. If that fails, order a leafy salad or a vegetable-based appetizer as soon as you’re seated (but not deep fried – think sautéed Brussels sprouts instead of crispy jalapeño poppers).
2. Substitute. Then Substitute Some More
Most restaurants are more than willing to accommodate any special dietary requests you might have, so there’s no need to have anything on your plate that doesn’t suit your eating lifestyle. Sometimes it’s not your main entrée that’s the problem, but rather the heavy-handed sauces or sides that come with it. Heaping pile of fries that’s served aside of everything everywhere? We’re talking to you.
Healthy Tips: It’s time to reclaim your plate and your health by making menu substitutions. You know that sea of Hollandaise your poached eggs are swimming in? It tastes just as good, if not better, served on the side. Having sauces, salad dressings and other glazes that are meant to just accent food served separately allows you to control how much of the stuff you want to eat. As for those gluttonous side dishes (yeah, we’re still talking to you, fries), swap those empty calorie mounds for nutritious options, like a side of greens or seasonal vegetables.
3. Don’t Drink For Your Health
So you might know that soda, even calorie-free soda, is bad news. Really bad news. But what might be a newsflash is that fruit juice is not that far behind. Some conventional fruit juices, like apple and cranberry, actually have more grams of sugar than soda. So while you’re thinking that you’re doing your body good by drinking your fruits for the day, you’re actually doing the opposite by sipping on fruit flavored sugar water.
Healthy Tips: If you can live without it, stop drinking juice all together. Start by swapping juice with water when ordering your morning breakfast smoothie, and later on with club soda when grabbing a cocktail at the bar. If removing juice from your diet entirely is unrealistic, try to cut way back. One simple trick is diluting juice with water, and using lemons or limes if needed to naturally sweeten. You can also seek out freshly squeezed or organic varieties that will have significantly less sugar and calories.
4. Gobble Up A Burger
How much do we love our burger joints in Rhode Island? So much so that Travel + Leisure ranked Providence America’s Best Burger City in 2012. From patty melts served from quick service counters to grass-fed stacks handmade at gourmet restaurants, all types of burgers can be found on countless menus statewide. By the time you add cheese, bacon and an oversized buttery bun to the beef patty, that all-American classic has become an all-out health hazard.
Healthy Tips: One way to lighten it up is by opting for a lean turkey burger. Luxe Burger Bar and Harry’s Bar & Burger, both in Providence, are burger palaces that offer a variety of beef burgers, as well as equally delicious turkey alternatives. Another tip is to ditch the add-on toppings like fried eggs, onion strings and mayo. You can also lose the bun and bank around 350 calories. Add raw or sautéed vegetables such as onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, lettuce and avocado for a filling and nutritious classic of your own.
5. Take Home Leftovers
So you ordered the bacon mac and cheese with a side of fries and a tall glass of soda. Fine. No one’s judging you. Unless you eat it all one sitting, that is. There’s no need to be the president of the Clean Plate Club every time you dine out.
Healthy Tips: Portion control and moderation are both big parts of the eating healthy puzzle. And while some Rhody restaurants pride themselves in serving larger than life portions (we’re looking at you Marchetti’s in Cranston), you should feel just as boastful taking what you didn’t eat home. That’s another meal (maybe even two!) you don’t have to cook.