Dining out can be a delightful experience, filled with delicious flavors and a break from cooking at home. However, it can also be a potential minefield for those trying to maintain their weight loss goals. The good news is that with a bit of knowledge and mindful choices, you can enjoy restaurant meals without derailing your progress. Let's explore strategies for making healthier choices when dining out, including what foods to avoid and what to look for, along with examples of both tempting and wholesome options from various types of restaurants.
Foods to Avoid:
Fried and Breaded Items: Steer clear of dishes labeled as "fried," "breaded," or "crispy." These are often loaded with unhealthy fats and calories. Instead, opt for grilled or baked alternatives.
Creamy Sauces and Dressings: Cream-based sauces and dressings can be calorie bombs. Request these on the side, so you can control the amount you consume.
Sugary Beverages: Skip the sugary sodas and cocktails, which can add up to a significant number of empty calories. Opt for water, sparkling water, or unsweetened iced tea instead.
Giant Portion Sizes: Restaurants often serve large portions, which can encourage overeating. Consider sharing an entree or asking for a takeout container right away to save half for later.
All-You-Can-Eat Buffets: While buffets offer variety, they can lead to overindulgence. Stick to smaller plates and focus on salad, lean proteins, and veggies.
What to Look For:
Lean Proteins: Look for dishes centered around lean proteins like grilled chicken, turkey, fish, or tofu. These options provide satiety without excessive calories.
Fiber-Rich Foods: Foods high in fiber, like whole grains, vegetables, and legumes, can help you feel full longer. Choose dishes with these ingredients.
Salads with Care: Salads can be deceivingly high in calories due to toppings and dressings. Opt for salads with plenty of veggies, lean proteins, and dressings on the side.
Smart Sides: Instead of fries or chips, go for steamed or grilled vegetables, a side salad, or a small serving of whole grains.
Customization: Many restaurants allow you to customize your order. Don't be afraid to ask for substitutions or adjustments to make your meal healthier.
Examples of Restaurant Choices:
Italian Restaurant: Avoid: Fettuccine Alfredo
Choose: Grilled chicken with marinara sauce and a side of steamed broccoli.
Mexican Restaurant: Avoid: Chimichangas
Choose: Grilled shrimp tacos with whole wheat tortillas and a side of black beans.
Japanese Restaurant: Avoid: Tempura
Choose: Sashimi or sushi rolls with brown rice and miso soup.
Burger Joint: Avoid: Double bacon cheeseburger
Choose: Turkey or veggie burger with lettuce wrap and a side salad.
Avoid: Butter chicken
Choose: Tandoori chicken with a side of sautéed spinach and brown rice.
Fast Food Chain: Avoid: Large fries and sugary drinks
Choose: Grilled chicken sandwich with a side salad or apple slices.
Portion control is a powerful tool for weight loss when dining out. When faced with tempting restaurant portions, consider splitting your meal with a dining companion, ordering an appetizer as your main course, or immediately requesting a to-go box to set aside half of your dish. By keeping a close eye on portion sizes, you can savor the flavors of your meal without overindulging, making dining out a supportive, rather than a hindering, part of your weight loss journey.
Eating out occasionally doesn't have to sabotage your weight loss goals. With mindful choices and a bit of planning, you can savor delicious meals while staying on track. Remember to avoid calorie-dense, fried, and sugary options, and opt for dishes featuring lean proteins, fiber-rich ingredients, and smaller portion sizes. By making smart choices at various types of restaurants, you can enjoy dining out as a part of your balanced and healthy lifestyle.