How to Make Healthy Food Choices When Eating Out

Here’s how you can lead a health-conscious life even when eating out.

Annabelle D’Costa

It’s a known fact that dining out is indirectly proportional to a healthy diet. Greed gets the better of us luring us towards food items we never even wanted in the first place. But, believe it or not, your decision to eat healthy doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy an occasional meal out. A little indulgence won’t make much difference to your grand scheme of eating healthy.

However, you should stop and consider carefully how it’s going to affect your diet and overall health. There are ways you can enjoy a hearty meal without having to worry about never being able to fit into your favourite pair of jeans.

Plan Ahead

Consider meal options at different restaurants and look for ones with a wide range of menu items, preferably, health-conscious or varied food options. Many a time, the sight and smell of food attracts you towards unhealthy food choices, making it difficult to stick to a healthy eating plan. To avoid such challenges, its best to look up the menus online to help you choose your food ahead of time.

Eat Before You Leave

it’s a common mistake made by many when dining out—skipping prior meals so as to ensure hunger when eating out. Skipping meals results in lowered metabolism, which reduces the number of calories you’ll burn throughout the day. Moreover, when you deprive your body of food, it runs low on glucose, encouraging you to binge-eat later.
If going out for lunch, its best to start your day with a protein-rich, low-carb breakfast. Studies have shown that doing so helps you stay satiated for a longer period. In case of dinner, it is best to opt for a low-cal but filling snack such as a fruit or some veggies prior to hitting the dining hall.

Also read: 6 scrumptious Indian breakfast options to help start your day 

Here's an easy-peasy carrot and orange salad recipe:
How to Make Healthy Food Choices When Eating Out

Make Smart Choices

If you're eating with a group, make sure you order first. Other people’s choices tend to influence our decisions. While perusing the menu, look for food description that reads steamed, grilled, roasted or poached as these cooking methods equate to less fat and therefore fewer calories. Skip dishes that are pan-fried, fried or sautéed. While at it, be wary of labels that read ‘paleo’, ‘gluten-free’, ‘keto-friendly’ or ‘sugar-free’. These labels don't necessarily mean you’re making a healthy choice, they are designed for people following a very specific diet. To be certain, read the menu description thoroughly or cross check with your server.

Also read: Cooking methods to help ensure your meals remain nutrient-rich

Balance your Meals

If possible, round out your meal by including healthier selections such as meat, dairy, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. If you’d rather have a salad instead, go for one that gives you a mix of everything, salads with veggies and baked or grilled paneer, chicken, seafood or beans on the side, that provide protein along with fibre and other nutrients making for a well-balanced meal option. While at it, ask for a salad with no dressing or ask for it on the side to control the calories you’d be consuming.

Ask for Substitutes

Many restaurants do honour requests to meet your nutritional needs so don't be afraid to ask for them. In case of combination meals, its best to replace your fries with a salad on the side. Substituting your sweet and aerated drinks with a plain glass of water can help cut down the calories you consume.

Practise Mindful Eating

Many restaurants serve huge portions, sometimes enough for two. In case you’re not sharing your meal, eat as much as you can and bring back the leftovers. If dining alone, order an appetiser in place of a main course and if still hungry, simply call for a soup or bowl of salad. Besides, it’s important that you chew your food thoroughly and slowly, enjoying the taste and aromas. Additionally, it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to signal your brain that you are no longer hungry. Chew your food well to stop yourself from eating too quickly.

Smaller, the Better

Whenever possible, always use smaller plates and glasses to avoid serving yourself too much. First, big cups, bowls, and plates tend to hold more food and liquid, making you take more than you initially wanted. Second, they also make normal portion sizes seem even smaller than they actually are. Play smart and choose a small plate instead to keep portion sizes in check. Besides, this conscious choice will also help you limit how much you can load up on at one time.

Eating at a Buffet

When you are faced with an unlimited supply of food at an all-you-can-eat-buffet, eating the right amount, not forgetting healthy, can be a tad-bit challenging. However, an effective trick is to fill half of your plate with salads or vegetables, limiting room for other irresistible options if not unhealthy. 

Also read: Your guide to eating at a buffet

Image: Shutterstock




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