Making Healthy Choices while Dining Out

200361237-001Did you know that Americans eat out FIVE times a week on average? Unfortunately, many of these meals are laden with sugar, fat, sodium and preservatives.  Medical experts now say all of these ingredients are now being linked to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, auto-immune disease and more.

Yet, as busy professionals balancing family and work, kids’ activities and exercise, sometimes we simply don’t have time to cook a nutritious meal for ourselves or our families.  My clients repeatedly ask the same question:  I want to enjoy going out to dinner but I don’t want to derail my diet, what should I eat?

I always tell my clients, as a general rule, the more you cook at home the more control you have over what is being put in your body.  However, there are many things you can do to minimize the impact your Saturday night date night has on your healthy living.

1)     Look for restaurants that use whole organic products.  Organic is the new buzzword for restaurants looking to attract a more health conscious patron.  Even if your favorite eatery doesn’t offer a completely organic menu, many offer healthy alternatives.  BEWARE:  Just because a menu item has a pretty symbol indicating it is healthy, doesn’t mean it actually is.  Know what you are ordering!  Most of these menu items will offer calories, fat, carbohydrates so that you can make an educated decision.

2)     Stay away from heavy creams, sugary and fried foods.  Not only will these foods make you feel crappy later on, they are the exact foods that cause the diseases listed above!  You will spend a week on the treadmill trying to burn off the fried chicken and fettuccine alfredo!   Get used to the idea that when you eat out, you will only eat at places that offer whole fruits and veggies, meats and grains.

3)     Dessert is for special occasions!  As amazing as the molten chocolate lava cake tastes, it is best reserved for birthdays and anniversaries.  These sugary sweets high in refined sugars, creams and fats actually slow down your metabolism so we are taking in the calories once and changing the way our bodies digest calories in the future.  When we eat like this too often, we slow down how we break down food allowing these sugary sweets to reach our hips and bellies even quicker!

4)     PORTION CONTROL!  We have heard it again and again and you know you should do it, so make it a rule.  NEVER eat an appetizer, main course and dessert!  Be mindful of the size of the serving.  A local Italian hot spot always serves enormous portions so I make it a point to share it with a friend or pack half of it up and take it home for another meal.

5)     Can’t find something healthy on the menu?  Order a la cart!  When I am stuck with no healthy options, my go to is broccoli (or any vegetable) and boneless chicken breast or fish.  Sound boring?  Know that your chicken breast is probably cooked with oil and your vegetable is covered in butter.  Make sure you ask when you order.

6)     Make veggies your main course!  I like to stay away from breads and pastas so when I’m eating out, I love escarole and beans.  Vegetables take longer to digest meaning you are actually burning calories as your body breaks down fruits and veggies and delivers healthy nutrients through the blood stream to waiting cells.  This means greater sustained energy rather than the crash and burn after eating the molten chocolate lava cake!

I like to think of eating out as a luxury rather than a necessity because I don’t have time to cook.  As a general rule of thumb, eating whole foods sans sugars, salts and preservatives is the way to enjoy your date night without the guilt and added pounds.

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