Just because you’re on the go doesn’t mean you have to eat poorly, even if restaurants don’t always offer the healthiest choices. Here’s some advice about how to make smarter food choices when you’re eating out that are simply better for you.
Get to know your waiter or waitress
Once you’re in the right kind of restaurant, get ready to get friendly with the person who is serving you.
- Ask your waiter or waitress to please hold the bread basket so you’re not tempted to fill up on usually high-glycemic load (GL) carbs while waiting for your meal to arrive.
You should also inquire about how a dish you’re considering is prepared.
- Is it swimming in butter?
- Are the vegetables present in only token amounts?
- Find out how big the portions are.
Remember, you can always ask for more veggies, less butter, and a half-portion. Most restaurants are more than willing to accommodate special requests.
Become a regular and order creatively
When you order, be bold and deviate from the “standard” menu.
- Why not order soup, salad and an appetizer (not fried) for your meal rather than an entrée?
- You and a friend could split an entrée and share a side order of vegetables to get more veggies into your meal — and fewer calories.
- If a main dish comes with a potato, ask if you can get an extra vegetable instead. (Especially if you’re a regular customer, you’re likely to get your way.)
- If you plan to order dessert, plan to share it, too.
The best situation is when you get to know a restaurant’s regular fare, including how big the portions are, and use that knowledge to outsmart the menu.
Making smart choices at the mall
Be prepared! The mall is a dangerous place for your nutritional safety if you’re going there to satisfy your hunger pangs…
Should you succumb to a cinnamon bun, for example, you’ll take in 730 calories, nearly all of them in the form of high-GL starches, sugar and saturated fat. The good news? You can escape without catastrophe if you keep your wits about you. If there’s a sandwich shop, for instance, you can have a 15 centimetre (six-inch) roast beef sandwich on whole wheat bread for only 290 calories, with very little saturated fat and only a modest amount of carbohydrate (45 grams or 1/4 cup). You can get a similar low-fat, low-cal sandwich made with ham, oven-roasted chicken breast, turkey breast or club style. Get it with minestrone soup for only 90 more calories. Wash it down with a diet soft drink or water, and you’ve eaten a real, satisfying meal for only 380 calories.
If you only want a snack and you’re smart, you’ll have one with you and avoid the mall altogether.
- A handful of nuts is easy to throw into a resealable plastic bag. Baby carrots are similarly easy to bag and transport. And the old snack standby, an apple, always works well.
The best way to make smart food choices is to plan ahead, prepare a healthy snack in advance, and avoid the mall when you can. It also makes a difference to avoid the lure of all-you-can-eat places, or buffet-style restaurants, where portions are hard to control, ingredients are uncertain, and the way the foods are prepared is unknown.