So you’ve been doing great on eating healthy. You’ve worked out most days this week and want to keep the good habits rolling. Then the weekend hits. You want to go out with friends, celebrate a birthday, or maybe it’s actually the middle of the week and you just need to grab something on-the-go. You’re still new to this healthy scene and the greasy, old ways of your past have never looked bigger or better on the menu. I’m here to reassure you that you can still get delicious food outside your home, you’ll just need to approach it with a more educated mindset than you have in the past.
When you’re headed to a restaurant or fast-food lane, look at the menu and realize that most restaurants are NOT looking out for your waistline. They could care less about what they’re putting into food as long as it comes out tasting good, and people continue to order it. Although some places do have nutrition facts listed, the majority do not and you’re left to guess. Here are a few tips I have when you find yourself in this situation:
- Keep sauces and dressings on the side. Restaurants are notorious for dumping LOADS on an entree, whether it’s a salad, pasta dish, or even just chicken. You may think you’re ordering something healthy until your chicken shows up and…you can’t find it. Ask for the dressing or sauce on the side and use as little as needed -OR- replace it entirely. Instead of the ranch on the salad, ask for a lighter option, or simply oil/vinegar to sprinkle on yourself. Having pasta? Think RED. White sauces are usually full of bad fats and high calories. Ask for a bolognese or marinara sauce instead of the alfredo. Ordering meat? Again, ask for the sauce on the side or omit entirely. Most meats have plenty of flavor on their own!
- Avoid anything fried. Stick to options that are grilled, broiled, steamed, or baked. The preparation of your food has a tremendous impact on how good it is for you!
- Don’t be afraid to make substitutions. I’m probably the most annoying customer in the world, but I end up getting what I want and in my mind it’s the restaurant’s job to do that for you.
- Order smart side dishes. Often times the worst part of your meal lies in those 2 simple sides. I generally stay away from starches in restaurants and just ask for a double veggie side (grilled or steamed of course!) or a side salad. But if you love your carbs, get brown rice instead of white, or order a baked potato instead of fries. Avoid anything with heavy sauce (coleslaw, potato salad, etc) and if beans are an option, always opt for black.
- Stay away from the bread basket!! Most people take in a meals worth of calories in bread and appetizers alone! Leave your indulging for the meal and if you do have some bread, go for a multigrain or wheat option and keep it at one slice with olive oil instead of butter. If you’re at Texas Roadhouse, good luck.
- Ask them to go easy on the butter and oil. When preparing even veggies and meat they tend to season them in butter and cook them in lots of oil. I always ask for no butter on anything regardless of what I order, and if it’s being prepared in oil – that minimal oil be used! You may get weird looks, but you’ll be the one with a six-pack…not your waiter.
- When in doubt, go with seafood. As long as your seafood isn’t being fried, it’s generally hard to go wrong with a piece of fish. Keep your sides clean and you have a nutritious, satisfying meal on its way.
- Salads – proceed with caution. I almost always go with salads when eating out, because I live in America and every food dish served in America is 3 portions too large and it’s hard to go wrong with extra portions of greens and veggies. Add a grilled chicken breast, veggie burger, or salmon on top and you have a highly nutritious, balanced meal. But rarely will a salad *as listed* on a menu be your best option. Generally I’d stay away from cheese, but if you do go with it, stick with feta, parmesan reggiano, ricotta, or another low-fat option. Ask for no croutons (unless you have the willpower to scrape them off later) and again, go for a low-fat dressing or balsamic vinegar on the side. Last check? Make sure if your salad comes with meat, that it’s grilled and not fried. Basically, just be aware of what’s coming in your salad before you put your gold star on.
- Dun, dun, dun…italian food. Pizza, pasta, carbs, oh my. For italian food making so many Americans fat, Italians themselves seem to be doing just fine. Biggest difference? PORTIONS. Generally, these places are notorious for being extremely generous in the sizes of their dishes. Ways to escape this trap are a) split a meal with a friend or b) take half to-go…and don’t eat it when you get home. Another way to escape the Italian restaurant trap is to go whole wheat or gluten-free. Even if it’s not listed, ask if you can replace your pasta or pizza crust with one of these options…and if you’re getting pizza, make sure to go THIN crust!
- Take advantage of the to-go box. Ask for a box the minute you get your food and put half of it away before you even begin. Then there’s no tempting extras lingering on your plate.
- Do your research. Most popular restaurants now have nutritional information available for you either at the restaurant (if you ask) or online. If you know where you’re headed beforehand, do your research and be less overwhelmed by your options on the spot. Ever heard of Eat this, not that? They’re a best-selling book series that also have an active twitter account and phone application(s). It’s a great resource for weighing options at not only restaurants and fast-food joints, but also supermarkets. They even break down food into specific food categories.
- Choose your restaurant wisely…if you have a say in where you’re eating, choose something with a variety of options, or someplace that won’t put you in a bad situation. Dessert a weakness for you? Probably don’t go to the Cheesecake Factory. Love pizza and beer? Maybe Old Chicago isn’t the place. Like I’ve said before, seafood places are a great option, as well as Mongolian grills or somewhere with a yummy salad buffet (Ruby Tuesdays anyone?).
If worse comes to worse, enjoy a cheat meal. You deserve it. Make your Saturday a fatterday and just be sure you stay on track the rest of the week. Another option? Walk home. Okay kidding. But in all honesty I once ran home from 4 Queens (ice cream shop) because I felt so disgusting afterwards. HAHA, ohhhh please tell me someone reading this remembers this moment… [Caitlin, Blaire, Abby, Sara, Jacqui?] It only took me 10 years to figure out I can just eat better, and less, and not have to do extra sit-ups to feel better afterwards (Cara, Jacqui – you can attest). *Confession 2: Jacqui and I once did post-meal sit-ups, and I actually brought food over and ate while we did them* WHO WAS I?
In other and more exciting news this week…
We finally have our EPIC ski passes! We got a significant discount on these for having our wedding in the mountains this summer, woo! “Lets get married every summer” – Tyler. Ha, if only it worked that way:) We now have unlimited access to all Vail Resorts mountains in Colorado…now all we need is snow.
Next exciting news this week…pomegranates are in season!!! Of course we grabbed a few and have had some on-hand to throw in anything and everything we eat. Side note: if Tyler had one wish in this world it would be to swim in a pool of pomegranate seeds and frolick in a field of pomegranate bushes. This grown adult would make special trips to frozen yogurt joints only for the pomegranate seeds…not to worry, I more than made up for his slacking in a true bowl of frozen yogurt.
Am I the only one obsessed with holiday kitchen items? If it weren’t for my limited storage space, clutter OCD husband, and tiny wallet…I would have my place singing hallelujah all the way from the silverware to the towels, and everywhere in between. For now, I’ll settle for a new gingerbread man spatula. *sigh* But before I run off to cook dinner with my much-too-plain kitchen utensils, let me share a few workouts and yum yums from this week:
Annnnd, some yummy new ways I chose to fuel myself this week:
Hope everyone has an awesome Thanksgiving week!! I know I can’t wait to try out some new recipes…and even better – see what everyone else is making! I have to work this week as it’s OPENING day in Beaver Creek on Wednesday, but Tyler and my brother will get to scope out the skiing while I take care of the injured…and they also will figure out how to cook a Turkey. I’ve seemed to escape this task the last few years and I’m not complaining.
So, happy cooking and eating this week! May you enjoy the best nap of the year approximately one hour after your Thanksgiving meal.