When Eating Out: Healthiest Options To Look For

Going out for a delicious meal is such a privilege (especially here in Richmond where the food scene is unbelievably good). With incredible culinary variety, recipes, flavor and urges to try something new, it can sometimes be a challenge to stick with your dietary restrictions or stay “on the wagon” when you eat a meal out. It is important to keep in mind that no matter how strict (or relaxed) your diet may be, there will always be times when the boundaries need to be flexible, and you do the best you can in those situations. As always, I believe that food should be a joyful experience and no matter what you’re eating, it should be eaten with gratitude, joy and with no negative emotions attached. This means that when you eat out, it can be helpful to look for the healthier options on the menu – especially if you’re prone to “eater’s remorse” and attaching negative feelings onto a delicious meal. Here are some of my tips for eating out on the healthier side:

  1. Go for the most colorful thing on the menu. Usually this is a form of vegetable rich salad with protein that is (hopefully) seasonal and nutrient dense. Stick with oil based dressings like olive oil and vinegar or simple balsamic.
  2. Always stick with water (no ice) throughout the meal to avoid extra sugar or alcohol that is difficult to digest and inflammatory to the liver. Drinking room temperature water is so much better for your stomach while you digest so you’re not dampening the digestive fire with cold beverages while the stomach works hard to break down your food.
  3. If you’re dish comes with sides  or toppings, stick with the vegetables instead of the fried things or extra carbohydrates (like chips or fries). If you’re plate comes with fries, ask for a side salad instead.
  4. Avoid the syrupy, creamy and fried options and stick to grilled, sauteed or steamed dishes. This usually keeps ingredients more simple and pure with less fat and sugar included.
  5. Keep it well rounded: Always look for a substantial protein (grilled meat, beans/legumes, soy based products or eggs), lots of vegetables and a simple whole grain. Half of the plate should be colorful veggies, ¼ protein and ¼ whole grain carbohydrate (such a brown rice, quinoa, barley or even sweet potato etc).
  6. Specials – Often the daily specials mean the ingredients are fresh and new and sometimes local to your restaurant area.
  7. Eat slowly. Savor your meal and enjoy the company you’re with. Eating rapidly leads to overeating and over stuffing your stomach, hindering the digestive process. Remember, meal portions served in the US are absurdly large – you don’t (and probably shouldn’t) feel inclined to clean your plate. Box half of it up and enjoy the leftovers on another day.

Interested in more customized and tailored nutrition information just for you? Schedule an appointment with our Nutritionist, Lindsay Kluge, M.Sc, CNS, LDN and get started today!

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