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! 

Being An Adventurous Food Traveler

We had the chance to travel out to Maryland this past week for a wedding. We took the opportunity to turn this trip into a little "babymoon." We hadn't gone on a big summer vacation or anything this year, because we have been saving money for the upcoming arrival of our newest addition at the end of December. So with this wedding out in Maryland, we decided to make a long weekend trip out to the east coast and were able to see Salisbury and Baltimore Maryland and ventured up to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

One thing we love to do when we travel is make an effort to only eat at local restaurants. There is too much good food in the world, to eat at a chain restaurant when on vacation. This trip was no exemption to that rule. 

Eastern Shore, MD - 

  • Rise Up Roasted Coffee - This was a super hip and cool coffee shop in the middle of Easton, MD. This shop actually was where the coffee roasting happened for the coffee that this store sold. They had a delicious smoked salmon bagel, a very smooth latte and a fantastic atmosphere to just hang out in for a little bit. We ended up just hanging out at this shop for a good 1.5 hours. It was neat to watch the employees roast the coffee beans that they sell. We picked up a package of their fall seasonal roast and are excited to have use it for our coffee at home. 
  • The Atlantic Hotel - We ventured over the Berlin, MD from Easton and checked out a historic hotel that had a cute, little restaurant attached. The town of Berlin is near the coast of Maryland. The lunch we got was yummy. I had a crab chowder and Chas got a crab roll sandwich. We were able to sit outside on an enclosed porch and enjoyed a quick walk around the downtown area after our luncheon. 
  • Specific Gravity Pizzeria - For dinner we checked out this pizza place in Salisbury, MD on the recommendation of a our friend, Lee. This is supposedly the best kept secret in Salisbury. We had a pizza with chorizo, manchego cheese and fried shrimp. It was absolutely amazing! One of the best pizzas I have had. The crust was thin and the manchego cheese was delicious. Then we also got DOUGHnuts for dessert and that just ended the meal on a high note. I definitely recommend it if you find yourself in Salisbury, MD.  
  • The Barlett Pear Inn - The wedding that we traveled all this way to attend, we held at this adorable inn. Immediately following the ceremony there was a reception with amazing hors d'oeuvres. It was such a nice venue and they had a beautiful spread for us to snack on.
  • The Red Roost - This local establishment is kind of in the middle of nowhere in the country. It was such a neat restaurant. I am so glad that we got to go and eat blue crab that were caught right there in the Chesapeake Bay area. I have to admit at first I really struggled, but it was a great experience and so much fun! 


Philadelphia, PA - 

  • Famous 4th Street Delicatessen - This restaurant ended up being our 2nd option for our brunch date in Philly with my sister, but it was so worth the walk. The restaurant was so beautiful and the food options were so diverse. The portions were huge and it tasted delicious. I got Challah french toast and Chas had an amazing Reuben sandwich. 
  • Jasmine Rice - This local Thai spot has a couple of locations in Philadelphia. We got to meet the owner, and he was extremely nice. I had some friend jasmine rice with vegetables and tofu and it was delicious. It is was light and full of flavor. Chas had some wonderful Tom Yum soup. 
  • Menagerie Coffee - This local coffee shop is where my sister use to work. I was excited to be able to go and see it. It was super cute and the cold brew coffee we had was quite good. It had a great atmosphere and I would see it being a great place to hang out at, drink delicious coffee and work on things.

Baltimore, MD - 

  • Cafe Jovial - This little cafe was right down the street from the townhouse that we stayed at in Baltimore. It got good reviews online and we walked down there for lunch. The owner was nice and the hot sandwiches that we ordered were quite tasty.
  • Sabatino's Italian Restaurant - As our last stop, we walked over to Little Italy in Baltimore and checked out some of the local restaurants. We ended up stopping at this local place and enjoying some traditional Italian food before heading to the airport. Chas ordered a shrimp alfredo and I had some gnocchi. The pasta portions were quite large. It was all very good and a fun place to stop before we headed out of town.

I am not sure if you have heard of or watch my YouTube, but Sorted Food is a great channel with some fun guys who do a great job at promoting new foods. They had a great blog post up on their website about being an adventurous eater and trying new things - CLICK HERE to read the post. Here were a few of my favorite comments that they made ... "every meal is exciting, and you have the best stories to tell," These are two of the best parts of eating out and trying new things in my opinion. 

I would encourage you when you plan your next trip to scope out some of the potential eating establishments in the area and try to find some local food to eat. Now I also like to try to make sure that there are some "healthier" options available as well. Even though it is vacation, it is important to try to remember the importance of a balanced diet. 

Restaurant Food versus Fast Food

Well guess what ... restaurant food is just as unhealthy as fast food. To some of you that might be shocking news. I think we all like to think that because we are paying more and sitting down at a meal we expect that meal to be better for us. That is not always the case. Research from the University of Illinois was released this month and it was talking about a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. They found that Americans eating out, at a sit down restaurant or a fast food restaurant, are still consuming 200 calories more per day compared to eating at home. To read a summary of this article - CLICK HERE.

So let's take a look at a couple of restaurants up close and personal ... 

Olive Garden - 1 serving of salad, 1 breadstick and a plate of the fettucine alfredo pasta = 780 calories, 45.5g fat and 1650mg of sodium

McDonald's - 1 McChicken sandwich with 1 medium fry = 710 calories, 33g fat and 840mg sodium 

McAlister's Deli - 1 veggie Spud with light sour cream, side of fruit and cole slaw = 820 calories, 38g fat and 1230mg sodium 

Subway - 6 inch spicy italian sandwich on 9-grain wheat bread with a bag of Lay's baked chips = 610 calories, 26g fat and 1690mg sodium 

Eating at home is clearly the best option, but if you do enjoy eating out or have to on vacation this summer, make sure to watch your portion sizes. Think about it. The burger at McDonald's versus the burger at Red Robin are very different. The Red Robin burger is huge in comparison and is going to contain more fat, sodium and overall calories compared with the McDonald's burger. Be mindful of the portion of food that you are ordering and remember you can always save part of that meal for later.