Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Eating Out: The Healthy Way

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?


Angie said...

Those are such great tips for healthier eating out! Thanks for sharing! :-)

Momma K and her Krew said...

My motto is know before you go! Make informed choices. And sometimes YES, its worth it to indulge. My rule is it has to be something I cant make at home--something divine! And I eat lighter the rest of the day to prepare. But life is too short to ALWAYS say no. But to go with that, life needs to be long so you DO need to KNOW.

Anonymous said...

love the tips! i don't go out to eat very often but when i do i like to make informed choices.

Katy said...

Thanks for sharing these! I try to choose healthy options 90% of the time, and I love learning new ways to help.

Jennifer said...

I just found your blog and it rocks. Thanks so much for sharing these tips. Check out my blog:

Jess @ Blonde Ponytail said...

I rarely eat out, but THANKS for sharing such key tips on eating out!! You are a pro girl! These tips are key for still enjoying your time out to eat.

Do you ever look up the nutrition info of the place before you head out?

Mars said...

everyone makes fun of me because I look up the nutrition info on common restaurants and avoid things I find scary! (if people only knew what they were eating) that way, when I go to that restaurant I make a good choice because those high numbers scare me haha. Loved these tips!

Amanda@runninghood said...

I like eating out sometimes...but if I'm eating out, I'm there to treat myself and not worry about eating healthy. :) Usually. If I'm traveling then I try to be more aware.

Heather -Momma Running Amok said...

great list! We are breakfast people so I find it hard to eat out for breakfast and just suck it up and get 2 pancakes usually. Eggs are great, but many times they are drenched in oils and butter...and I feel like an omelet with veggies sounds good but has a TON of calories and and fat. thoughts???

Jody, RD said...

My husband and I are currently challenging ourselves not to eat out AT ALL in January. 27 days in and we're going to come out successful!

I do love eating out though and these are all great tips.

I always encourage my clients to have a game plan. Review a restaurant's menu online before going so you already have a few healthy options in your head. It can be tempting to just order whatever looks or smells good when you walk in a restaurant if you don't have a game plan.

Anonymous said...

GREAT tips! I love this. I generally avoid eating out during prep at all costs, but I know when I"m on vacation it WILL happen... it's always nice to see reminders of betetr choices.

Katherine Fajen said...

Megan! I just found your blog...from Kristy's blog (her blog is my guilty pleasure, I want to eat everything she posts!). I had a CTJ (coming to jesus) moment on Tuesday so cleaned out the cupboard and started a major weight-loss regiment yesterday. I'm glad I found your blog, LOTS of great tips on here!

Kristy {Sweet Treats and More} said...

I LOVE eating out. It's one of my favorite things to do with friends, family, and my hubby.

Great tips! I always get my dressings on the side and if I'm not eating a salad, share a meal with my husband. The dang bread is where I fail every. single. time.

Anonymous said...

I love eating out too.

I'm a total food snob these days. I'm not really into eating at most chains. I do if I have to.

If I know we are going some place i'm not familiar with, I look at the menu ahead of time.

And for some to indulge in something special, it has to be really awesome, if it's not, I don't eat it!

Karen R said...

I like this post! I eat out all the time and have gotten the hang of it. Man, they sneak calories in everywhere!

It's definately important to have your mind in on the food and not mindlessly order and eat!

Heather said...

I LOVE to eat out, but we really don't go that often. I go into work just 2 days a week so sometimes I join my work friends for lunch. I try to stick w/ sandwhiches on WW bread or salads (w/o cheese and fatty dressings).

Thanks for the helpful tips!!