Eating out is a big part of our culture – work meetings are conducted over coffee, catch ups at cafés with old friends for brunch. Going out to a fancy restaurant on a date night (or order in for a Netflix and chill date), or even meeting up at the pub after a long work week.
Eating out goes far beyond just looking for a good meal. It’s social and centered around connecting with those around us, celebrating, relaxing and maybe even a bit of romance! This is an important part of life, and so it is worth learning how to balance eating the foods we love and engaging in social situations while keeping our bodies well and eating healthy.
Restaurants, cafes and takeaway outlets are usually more focused on making the food taste good and are not always concerned about the nutritional value. If you tend to eat out regularly, this will have an impact on your overall nutrition. These tips will help you make healthier choices when you’re eating out.
1. Check the menu beforehand
This is all about being prepared and having some control over the meal. If you know where you’re going, scope out the menu beforehand to find an option that has more whole foods and vegetables, and is substantial enough to be satisfying without overdoing it. Consider what you are really craving, be realistic and make a mindful choice, for example deciding on a salad at a burger joint when you really feel like a burger is a recipe for being miserable and overindulging later.
2. Don’t turn up starving
In anticipation of a big night out, you may be tempted to skip your regular meals. If you know that there aren’t going to be many healthy options available, it may be worth having lighter meals over the day compared to your usual meals. However, completely skipping meals can lead to overeating – and ignoring appetite cues – leaving you feeling uncomfortably full.
3. Watch your drinks
The energy content of beverages can sneak up on you if you’re not mindful. This includes soft drinks, alcohol, milkshakes, juice and coffee. In addition to the meal, consider what you choose to drink and try to always have water available as an option.
4. Look for the veggies
Looking for extra vegetables is the easiest way to make a more nutritionally balanced and filling meal. This could be ordering a side of vegetables or even getting the vegetarian option. The meat or carbohydrate is often the highlighted component of dishes when eating out, however vegetarian meals are often super tasty due to the extra effort taken to make the vegetables shine!
5. Get the dressing or sauce on the side
These are often served in large quantities on meals and can be high in energy if made using fats such as oil, cream or butter. If you’re able to order them on the side, this allows you to decide how much you would like to use and reduce the overall energy content of the meal.
6. Share a meal or dessert
If you’re still hungry after eating it’s easy to order more food, however food waste can be a real issue. Sharing is a great way to save money and prevent wasting food. It also means you can enjoy dessert but reduce your portion. If the main portions are quite large, you could even order a decent sized entrée instead.
7. Put your cutlery down between bites
This is a great strategy to use at any meal! It helps you slow down and savour the food that you are eating. Being mindful also helps you stay in tune with your hunger levels, so that you can stop when you are feeling full. Sipping on water while eating is also a good way to stay hydrated and prevent overeating.
8. Move on with your life
Don’t beat yourself up if you do overeat, it helps to put things into perspective. One meal will not change your long-term health or weight outcomes unless you let it sabotage your mind set. It’s one meal, now you can move on and go back to your usual eating pattern. Forget the mistake, remember the lesson.
Learning how to balance your social life with healthy eating can be challenging. Starting with some of these simple changes can help you form new healthy habits. The dietitians at The Healthy Eating Clinic can help you by giving you personalized advice to suit your lifestyle for long-term success.