With fall comes the start of the holiday season, when many people eat more of their meals away from home—whether grabbing a bite at the mall, attending an office party, or connecting with friends.
It can be hard to commit to a good-for-you meal when your companion orders a burger and fries or the aroma from the next table is overwhelmingly enticing. Deciding in advance that you’ll eat a healthy meal at the restaurant will make you more inclined to choose better options from the menu.
What you order is only part of the equation: Many restaurants serve too much food, which is contributing to the obesity epidemic nationwide. If the portion you’re served looks twice as big as the helping you’d have at home, bring half of your meal back as leftovers.
Special occasions and eating out make it easy to justify indulging. But indulgences add up, leading to weight gain that can be hard to offset come the new year. Ensure a healthy holiday season and a strong start to 2018 by committing to these six good-for-you swaps when you’re eating out.
Soups: Broth, not Chowder
Stick with broth-based soups like chicken or vegetable, rather than cream-based soups like cheddar broccoli or clam chowder. Research shows that broth-based soup at the start of a meal can help to fill you up, so you’ll be inclined to eat about 20 percent fewer calories during your meal.
Salads: Dry, not Drenched
Many restaurants pour more fattening salad dressing onto a salad than you’d serve yourself. When you order salad, ask your server to bring the dressing on the side. Then dip the tines of your empty fork into the salad dressing before you stab your greens. You’ll taste dressing with every bite, and you’ll eat much less of it than you would if you coated each leaf of lettuce. If you choose an entrée-sized salad, order yours with healthy grilled chicken instead of greasy, calorie-laden crispy (fried) chicken. Or opt for salad entrées that are topped with heart-healthy and fiber-rich avocado slices, nuts, or beans.
Appetizers: Veggies, not Fritters
Stay away from onion rings, fried chicken wings, and mozzarella sticks; deep-fried anything isn’t good for your heart. Instead, look for lower-calorie dishes featuring vegetables: roasted asparagus spears, beet salads, hummus, and guacamole can all be good choices. Order one appetizer for the table, so you don’t overeat.
Entrees: Grilled, not Breaded
Whether you’re ordering chicken, beef, seafood or even a vegetarian option, remember that grilled and baked foods are healthier than those coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried. Ask for rich, creamy sauces on the side, because you won’t need as much as the chef doles out. Instead of filling up on fries, order healthy sides like mixed vegetables, rice, a baked potato, or a side salad. Many restaurants allow for substitutions.
Desserts: Fruity, not Fatty
Sweets can be decadent, laden with fat and calories. Choose lighter options, like raspberry sorbet, rather than a giant brownie à la mode. Share one dessert to avoid overeating.
Drinks: Water, not Soda
Soda, sweetened teas, and juices are filled with empty calories. Drink water or unsweetened tea instead.