Six Ways to Stay Healthy While Eating Out
Preparing your own meals at home is the very best way to have control over what you eat. However, eating away from home in restaurants is a normal and often very pleasant part of life. Restaurants are businesses and as such, are more successful when they sell their customers more foods and beverages, or when they sell the menu items with the highest profit margins. Here are six ways to enjoy eating in restaurants while making healthy food choices.
Pre-select part of your meal
Most larger chain restaurants, and many smaller local restaurants, have their menus available online. Take a moment to peruse the menu from home. Take your time reviewing the choices available and make your selection without distractions like music, bustling crowds and conversations. Knowing your order ahead of time means you’re less likely to be swayed by a server’s suggestions or the smells and sights of the restaurant itself.
Here are some popular restaurants, click on the restaurant name to view their nutrition pages. To find nutrition pages for other restaurants, Google the name of the restaurant and “nutrition”.
Eat your calories, don’t sip them
Choosing water over sodas or alcoholic beverages can save at least 20% of the cost of your meal, not to mention several hundred calories.
Those specialty coffees can add a lot of fat and calories, too. Click the link below to see the nutrition content in one popular coffee shop’s beverages. To search for another coffee shop, Google the name of the coffee shop plus “nutrition”.
Portion sizes are often far larger than what is healthy for a meal for one person. It is absolutely not necessary to eat everything on the plate! Many restaurants allow diners to split meals and even if they charge a sharing fee, it’s typically far less than the cost of an additional meal. Or, simply decide ahead of time that half the meal is going home in a take home package for a meal to be enjoyed another day.
Restaurant menu designers know that diner’s eyes are naturally drawn to the top right corner of the menu and that’s where they place the anchor. An anchor is an unusually high priced item that they don’t expect most people to buy. However, just having it there makes the items near it look like a good deal in comparison. So, they place the dishes with the highest profit margin there. Many diners will choose these more profitable items just because of the perceived value, rather than because of their healthful value.
You’re reading, they’re selling
Diners will chose menu items with descriptive language over items with simple language. “New York Style Cheesecake” outsells “cheesecake” more than half the time. Watch out for flowery or complicated language and know that these are sales tactics to draw your attention away from the price and onto the food.
Sauces on the side
Many dishes have high calorie, high salt sauces as a part of the dish. This includes salad dressings. Always ask for sauces or dressings on the side so you can control how much of these you consume. You can easy save hundreds of calories using this technique. It’s especially important with salad dressings, which are often loaded with sodium.
Words that mean “Salty”
It can be hard to tell how much salt is in menu items. Here are a few words that, when you see them, you will know they are high in sodium.
Pickled, broth, cured, soy sauce.
Watch for them!
All you can eat?
Buffets can especially tricky to navigate. Make it simple for yourself with two simple tricks.
1. BEFORE you start filling your plate, take a walk around the entire buffet and check out what’s on offer.
2. Sit facing AWAY from the buffet.
Studies by the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab have shown that consuming before perusing as well as facing towards the buffet are both associated with higher Body Mass Index, a frequently used surrogate for obesity.
So, if you occasionally find yourself in an “all you can eat” situation, rely on these actions to keep from overindulging.
The atmosphere in a restaurant is part of the enjoyment of eating a meal away from home. The music, the lighting and the décor all combine to produce the restaurant experience. However, the wise diner knows that these enjoyable parts of the restaurant experience are also distractions that can subtly yet pervasively deter healthy food choices. Awareness is key. Using these six tips will help you enjoy the experience of eating in a restaurant while making the best choices for your health and your budget.