We've all seen those "healthy" selections on menus when we go out, but how much can we actually trust that those options are good for us? The reputation of a restaurant depends on the quality and taste of the food, so can we really blame the chefs for slathering on the butter, salt and fat? They're only trying to satisfy their customers! For those of us trying to be a little more conscientious of what we eat, going out can become a real obstacle. It's almost impossible to find a meal that tastes fantastic and cuts back on those calories! Luckily, we've done some digging and discovered a handful of tips that will help you stay on track the next time you and your family head out to eat!
Save your calories for the meal. When it comes to ordering your drink, stick with something low on calories and sugar. We recommend water (with a squeeze of lemon for a little flavor!), unsweetened iced tea, fat-free or low-fat milk, coffee, hot tea, or sparkling water. If you are out with the girls and want to indulge a bit, stick with alcoholic drinks that won't pack on the pounds.
Monitor your bread intake. When the waiter drops off that basket of warm bread, it's almost impossible to resist just one piece... especially those Red Lobster Cheddar Biscuits, right?! Careful, though, one slice is typically about 150 calories... without butter! If you're set on bread, try asking your waiter for whole wheat and skip the schmear of butter.
Skip the appetizer. There's nothing more satisfying than a steaming plate of mouthwatering chili cheese nachos, but one order averages about 1,500 calories! If your stomach is rumbling and you feel your willpower slipping, try substituting in a side salad packed with fresh veggies. It will help you control your hunger and your calorie-count!
>> Read more: 13 Restaurant Salads Sure To Give You A Spook
Ask for your salad dressing on the side. Most restaurants saturate your salad with about three times the recommended serving size for salad dressing. That can come close to 200 calories, and nearly 20 grams of fat for most dressings! You will find that if you ask for your ranch on the side, you will use maybe half of it at most. We also recommend sticking with fat-free vinaigrettes to cut out even more unnecessary calories!
Opt for smaller portions. Restaurants grossly overestimate just how much people can (or should) eat, so typically a restaurant portion is the equivalent of about two to three healthy servings. Try to split your entree with someone or pick a small plate or appetizer instead of a main dish. You can also divide your meal in half prior to tucking in, and save it for the to-go box. This will help keep your calories and portions under control.
Know your meats. We definitely encourage you to supplement your meal with some hearty protein, and a serving of meat goes a long way in satisfying your daily requirements. However, certain cuts of meat can be especially high in fat, so knowing what to choose is essential! Shoot for leaner cuts like white meat, flank steak, filet mignon, or fish in order to eliminate excess fats.
Avoid fried and sautéed dishes. At home you can regulate what goes into your meal, but at a restaurant they're not going to use extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil to cut back on calories. Fried means deep fried, and sautéed means saturated in butter, grease and oil. Stick with dishes that are grilled, broiled or steamed, and request that no additional butter or salt be added.
Pick veggies for at least one side. We know how tempting those garlic mashed potatoes and curly fries look, but most side items are packed with unhealthy fats, sodium, and more calories than you'd care to think about! We recommend selecting a fresh steamed veggie for at least one of your sides. Baked potatoes (without the cheese and sour cream) can also serve as a healthier alternative.
Avoid buffets at all costs. Buffets are notorious for trapping unsuspecting customers into eating way, way more than they anticipated! Plus, most of the food on a buffet line is deep fried and slathered in butter, fat and sodium. "All you can eat" comes across as a dare, so don't let yourself get dragged down by an unspoken challenge! Salad bars are the exception, but even then, stick to veggies, non-fat dressing and lean meats. Check out these 7 Salad Makeovers by clicking here!
Dessert is not mandatory. Nothing ties up a delicious meal better than a slice of chocolate lava cake, but restaurant desserts typically contain 500+ calories... or the equivalent of a full meal! If you can't pass up on a slice of the restaurant's world-renowned cheesecake, try to share it with the family. You can also satisfy your sweet tooth with a some fruit or a small cappuccino.
Hitting up a restaurant does not mean the end of your health resolutions! These simple tricks will go a long way in keeping you on track and feeling fabulous. That being said, we highly encourage you to regulate your intake. Do your best to make sure that your meal out on the town is comprised of about 25 percent protein, 25 percent fat and 50 percent veggies. For more tips, check out our sources: United States Department of Agriculture, The Stir, and Best Health Magazine.