Eating Healthy While Eating Out

Did you know that the average American eats out 4-5 times a week. That equates to about 18 meals per month that are consumed outside the home. Those meals are, on average, $12.75 per person and that totals ~$232 per month on restaurant meals. If you look at fast food meal consumption, about 20% of Americans are eating meals in their cars. The average American spends $1,200 a year at fast food restaurants. So why do we love eating away from home? Well it is convenient and it is normally something we do to socialize. So obviously we all know that we will be eating out at restaurants so let's talk about ways to do that in a healthy way. 

Navigating a Restaurant Menu

  • Avoid portion distortion. 
    • Meals often are large. More often than not you are getting way too much. Ask for a doggie bag and save what is left over for lunch the next day.
    • Try to avoid going to the restaurant hungry. Most of us all over eat when we are already starving. So avoid going to the restaurant when super hungry.
    • Skip the sides or substitute a healthier option. Try to make healthier choices in the sides that you order. Skip the fries and instead order a salad.
  • Be sauce savvy. 
    • Watch out for high calories sauces and dressings and try to get the sauce on the side. When you put these toppings on the side that is an easy way to decrease calories and limit your consumption of these calorie rich toppings.
    • Add flavor to foods. This is easy to do by asking for extra mustard, salsa, peppers, onions or other flavorful toppings. Skimping on the on the dressing doesn't mean you have to eat less flavorful food.
  • Say no to fried.
    • When you pick fried food items you are adding extra calories. Watch out for words on the menu like breaded or crunchy.
    • Food can still taste delicious and can be grilled, broiled or baked. 
  • Sip smart.
    • Soda may sound refreshing, but if it isn't diet, then it can contain extra calories. If you drink too much diet soda it can  make you feel hungry and tend to over eat. 
    • Get water, unsweetened ice tea or low fat milk. Plus water will save you money on your restaurant bill.
  • Be prepared and have a plan.
    • Look at the menu ahead of time and come up with a plan. Figure out what food items are healthier and lower in calories. 
    • All of the menus are available online and you can use a nutrition app to look up nutrition information.

There is a great video that I found on YouTube about navigating fast food in a healthy way. Sometimes trying to find healthy choices at these restaurants may seem impossible, but it can be done! 

Hopefully some of these tips and tricks will be helpful when you head out to a restaurant this week. I know that some times it can feel overwhelming, but focus on 1 meal at a time and all of those good choices will add up!