Staying healthy while eating out can seem like a daunting task. A recent study concluded that eating out adds an estimated 200 calories per day. That adds up to 1400 calories a week and about one pound every two weeks! But that doesn’t have to mean swearing off restaurants completely .Follow the simple guidelines below and you’ll be set — no matter where the night takes you.
1. Beware of bread and butter
At most restaurants, the first thing placed on the table is a basket of bread with butter. While this may seem like a free treat (and let’s face it, turning down free food is tough), it’s really just a load of empty calories. There are around 150-200 calories in most restaurant bread rolls, not to mention 50 calories for every ½ tablespoon of butter. If you don’t have the willpower to resist the bread basket, tell your server politely that you don’t need one tonight. You’d rather save up for your meal.
2. Go minimal
Ordering a salad is always the healthiest choice, right? Not necessarily. Most tasty salads feature a protein (chicken, shrimp), multiple fats (think nuts, cheese, or eggs), and plenty of sugar (for example, dried fruits). Not to mention salad dressings, most of which are full of fat and sugar. If you order a salad, try to choose one with only one non-veggie topping — for example, chicken or nuts or cheese, but not all three. Get the dressing on the side or ask for a small side of olive oil and vinegar. That way you can decide how much to put on.
3. Watch out for creams
Cream sauces are delicious…but unfortunately they can wreak havoc on a diet, especially with the large portions sizes at restaurants. One serving of Alfredo sauce has 220 calories (180 from fat) and 20 grams of fat. And that’s without the pasta and added toppings. A serving of Bearnaise sauce has 250 calories and 97 grams of fat! Add that to the chicken or steak it’s topping and you could have a 1000 calorie dish. If you have your heart set on a creamy dish, ask for the sauce on the side and use it sparingly as a dip.
4. Go lean for protein
Love red meat? You’re not alone. Hamburgers and steak are delicious but they are a fattier cut of meat. If weight loss is your goal, your best option would be to order a leaner meat, like chicken or pork. But nothing is off limits so if you’ve got the itch, go ahead and get red meat. If it’s steak, get a leaner cut like filet and try not to eat more than 6 oz., which clocks in at 454 calories. If you’re ordering a burger, keep it classic — lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles but no cheese, bacon, or fried onions.
5. Double your veggies
Side dishes, like mashed potatoes, fries, and mac and cheese can often be heavy and greasy. If your dish comes with veggies, ask for a double order to get extra filling with little calories. You can also sub an unhealthy side item for a side salad instead. Really want those fries? Log them in Noom first to see how many calories they are. If you still want them, split the order with a friend as restaurant portions can border on gigantic.
If it seems like we’re taking the fun out of eating out, remember these are all suggestions. A little splurge every once in a while is healthy (if not, we’d all go crazy!). But if you’re trying to lose weight and you find yourself constantly out to eat, try some of these suggestions to keep from going over budget and stick with your weight loss goals. And remember, restaurants and their staffs are in the business of serving you. Don’t feel like you’re being a nuisance for customizing your order. Don’t you go out to enjoy a delicious meal you actually want, after all? Do what makes you feel comfortable — just make sure to enjoy yourself.