By Rachel Wyman
Clinical Nutrition Educator
There are several simple actions to take to set yourself up for success when dining out. These tips can help you eat healthy while eating out, regardless of what kind of restaurant you choose.
A 2014 study conducted by Cornell University Food and Brand lab revealed that slimmer diners tended to sit near a window, in a well-lit spot, at a high-top table rather than in a booth, closer to the front door, and away from the bar and TVs. Although researchers admit this study cannot establish cause and effect, requesting to be seated in these areas can be a simple and potentially helpful strategy to enhance mindful eating.
Shape Your Environment
Visual cues can often lead us to mindlessly eat without intention. Put up roadblocks against your triggers. If you feel less in control with desserts or mixed drinks, have your server remove the menus from your table. If the bread or chip basket has been your challenge, then have your server take it away. If others dining with you feel otherwise, slide these items closer to them and away from you.
Fill in Low-Calorie Choices
Seek out offerings that feature nature’s lowest-calorie foods: fruits and vegetables. Examples include broth-based soups, steamed vegetables and fresh fruit plates. Try to make half of your main meal filled with vegetables, asking for an extra portion if possible. Also, hydrate throughout the meal with a low-calorie beverage such as water, unsweetened tea, seltzer water or a skim milk latte with stevia.
Leave Off High-Calorie Additives
Calorie-bomb salad ingredients include cheese, nuts, bacon, croutons, creamy dressings and breaded meats. High-calorie sandwich fixings include cheese, bacon, mayo, breaded meats, chips and fries. Butter, cream sauce and gravy can saturate an entrée in extra calories. Ask for these high-fat ingredients to be taken off your meal or choose a dish without them, and you cut your calorie intake in half.
Leaner Proteins and Low-Fat Cooking Methods
Look for naturally lean-protein choices, such as fish, shellfish, skinless chicken, pork tenderloin, bison, venison, egg whites, edamame, lentils, tempeh and tofu. Choose dishes that are baked, boiled, broiled, blackened, grilled, marinated, roasted, seasoned or steamed.
A 2016 study by Tufts researchers examining restaurant meals from Boston, San Francisco and Little Rock determined the average calorie content to be between 1,200-1,500 calories per meal. One of the most straightforward ways to reduce your calorie intake to an appropriate level is to split your meal in half or thirds and ask for the remainder to be boxed up or shared with your dining partner. This way you can end the meal feeling satisfied rather than stuffed.
Rachel Wyman, RD, is Clinical Nutrition Educator at Mission Weight Management.