Eating out happens. It's a fun part of our social lives, and is something that is a part of life. It doesn't have to mean you over eat and go buck wild with caloric consumption. I love to eat out. A friend mine joked that most people fear death, heights, and spiders; and my biggest fear is restaurants that don't show their nutrition facts or offer a generous salad bar.
I have made a hobby out of finding what I finding great options to eat at whichever restaurant it is that we choose to eat at. I am a firm believer in the principle that you can eat out and still be healthy and even lose weight if that is what your goals are.
For some people a weekend indulgence is their favorite part of the week. That can be a great method to keeping your weeks healthy. For me, the feeling of having to "restart" the next day is unappealing. I don't like to feel like I'm going to have to run twenty miles every time I leave a restaurant. Here are some of the rules I follow...
With Italian food:
Choose a marinara sauce over a cream based alfredo or cheese sauce. Marinara's are tomato based, while anything cream based is going to be very high in fat or calories. Ask for whole wheat noodles or pizza crust if they're available. The thinner the crust the better. Choose to lighten the amount of cheese on your pizza, and blot the cheese you do get with a napkin. You'll slash the calories and fat by a lot. Also, remember that most italian restaurants have great grilled chicken or fish dishes. Pasta and pizza is not the only option.
If you're eating Mexican:
Watching your add-ons is a huge key here. Cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and ranch dressing are all calorie laden. Lighten up on those options or leave them out all together. Instead go crazy with the salsa, and the veggies. Salsa is extremely low calorie, and has a ton of flavor. Choose soft shells over hard shells, and avoid fried dishes if possible. Skip the bottomless chip basket if you are counting calories. It's way too easy to overdo it.
If Chinese is your thing:
Try to avoid the fried dishes that are packed with calories and fat. Most dishes that are sweet and sour are not only fried, but coated in a calorie filled sauce. Instead look for dishes with the words Jum - poached, Kow - roasted, or Chu - broiled. These are lighter options and aren't deep fried. Ask for brown rice instead of white. Watch your portions. Most chinese restaurants serve family style which can be dangerous.
If you're going Japanese:
You actually have some of the better options here. Sashimi and Sushi rolls can both be fairly healthy. These rolls are full of protein and veggies and they are portion controlled. Don't get overly excited though...some of the rolls have trouble written all over them. Tempura and Tonkatsu rolls have been breaded and fried and are high in fat and calories. Also, anything that is "spicy" is going to be high in fat because it contains mayonnaise.
If you're going to a buffet:
Oh boy. Just be careful. Watch your portions. Avoid buttery covered foods that look harmless. Watch out for all of the pasta salads that are made with mayo. Go for the non-fried protein.
If you're going to a salad bar:
Read THIS post. It breaks down the salad bar basics.
If you're going for a "light" soup and sandwhich:
Choose whole wheat bread. Skip the mayo and fattening sauces. Load up on veggies and protein instead. Choose broth based soups instead of cream based soups.
If you HAVE to make a fast food run:
Ask for the nutrition facts. Make a smart decision. Use your head, not your stomach to decide.
If you are going for breakfast:
Opt for some oatmeal, or whole wheat options. Choose an egg white omelet. Ask for sugar free syrup. Skip the juice. Choose a kids meal for smaller portions.
Basically...just be aware! Do you love to eat out? I think it's fabulous. I love the experience. I love sitting and talking with friends, and a night on the town. What are your healthy eating out tips?