Dine Out Like a Dietician

Eating out is a rage. New restaurants equal new experiences, new flavors and – let’s face it – new Instagram-able moments. And that’s not all. New data from LendEDU, which surveyed 1,000 Americans ages 22 to 37, found that 49 percent spend more on dining out than they put towards retirement. Woah!

While we’re not here to give financial advice, we are here to help you avoid the caloric pitfalls that sometimes await you when eating out. After all, if you cook at home, you know what’s in your food. If not, well, there’s some guess work involved.

But if you’re short on time or options, there are plenty of other options you can choose from at restaurants even if they do not offer an overly healthy menu. Our registered dietician, Lindsey Gass, shares some ways you can eat out and be healthy.

1. Follow a 2-drink maximum: Going out to a restaurant is rarely complete without a nice glass of wine or a crafty cocktail. Let’s face it, a little alcohol is enjoyable for a lot of us, so don’t miss out! Order that drink…but keep it to two. You still get to partake in the fun without inhaling a ton of calories, plus you’ll get home safely. If you do go for more than two, try drinking a full glass of water between each drink and you’ll avoid a possible hangover in the morning. And then call a ride.

2. Eat Before Going Out: If you know that you are going out to a restaurant that doesn’t have the healthiest menu to choose from, eat some healthy foods ahead of time, or chow down on a healthy snack, like some almonds or a protein bar. Trying out this tip will help keep you satiated before you walk in, so you’ll avoid overindulging on the menu at the restaurant – and keeping your calorie goals on track!

3. Choose Meals Carefully by Looking for Keywords: Everything on restaurant menus always sound amazing, but there are some keywords that you can look for to avoid a high calorie meal. Phrases including: “crispy”, “crunchy”, “golden”, and “lightly battered” indicate that a dish is fried. In the same way, phrases such as “creamy” and “aioli” indicate that dishes are filled with heavy creams and oils. Instead of choosing meals that are described with these keywords, choose meals that include: fresh salads, steamed or baked entrees, and broth based soups.

4. Order a dessert to share: Ugh, what are we, the enemies of fun? Well, sometimes. Desserts are usually high in calories that can immensely increase your daily calorie count, especially the ones served at restaurants. But we’re not crazy – we all need something sweet sometimes! So rather than ordering a big dessert all for yourself, share with a friend and split a dessert (we’re sure they won’t mind taking on a couple bites). Controlling your portions is far better than having desserts with a day’s worth of calories. Also, you’ll kill the craving for something sweet without overdoing it.

5. Ask for double the vegetables or dressing to the side: To save you a ton of calories, ask for your server to double up on the veggies instead of getting a side of fries, for instance. Double the carrots and a forkful of squash, for example, is not only a great way to help you feel satiated, but you’ll do so without mowing through your daily calorie intake in a single meal. Another idea is to ask for your dressing on the side. Dressings often times contain a ton of calories so by asking for the dressing on the side, you can control your calorie intake. A good rule of thumb is to use no more than 4 tbsp per meal (roughly about 4 thumb sizes).

6. Go in with a plan or eat healthy the rest of the day: The surest way to go off the rails at a restaurant is to order with your eyes. Not you, fam. Instead, walk in having already made a decision that you’ll be going the healthy route. Your mental resolve will be much stronger if you’ve made that decision prior to walking in. And you’ll thank yourself for it on the way out when you’re done. On the flip side, if you want to indulge a bit at the restaurant make sure to eat healthy the rest of the day and stay on track. Try eating light meals the rest of the day and don’t forget to drink lots of water.

These tips won’t only guide you in having a healthy meal when eating out, but would also provide a lot of nutritional value for you and your family. You do not have to miss out on having fun or ban yourself from going out. Enjoy yourself by trying a few of these tips. And that’s the long game! Part of that game? Staying steady at the gym. And you can get started with a FREE trial here: https://www.youfit.com/free-pass

Lindsey Gass

Lindsey Gass, RD, LD/N is a registered dietitian in Miami, FL. With a bachelor’s degree from Florida International University, Lindsey has years of experience in clinical, sports, long term care, and community nutrition. Lindsey currently works in critical care at Jackson Memorial Hospital, where she provides nutrition support and participates in trauma research. Outside of her career, Lindsey is an avid runner and Nike run club pacer working towards qualifying for a Boston marathon. Follow Lindsey on Instagram at @lin.health for nutrition tips and tricks. Learn more about Youfit’s Registered Dietician