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Top Tips for Eating Healthy When Dining Out

I don’t know about you, but after so much time spent in lockdown preparing my own meals in my apartment, and as New York City begins to ease restrictions on restaurants, I have never been so excited about dining out! 

Whether you are able to finally enjoy a restaurant experience al fresco, or you are simply emerging from your kitchen to order takeout, dining out doesn’t have to mean ditching a healthy diet. How can you stick to your healthy eating plan when visiting a restaurant? 

These are some of my favorite tricks:

Know before you go. 

I almost always check out a restaurant’s website, Yelp or Instagram feed to scope out their menu and food pics before I visit. That way, by the time I arrive, I know what I’ll be ordering. It’s not just that I’m a planner (I am), but because this helps me zero in on the healthiest items on the menu in advance, and stops me from getting swept up in the moment and making a poor decision! 

For the record, I tend to start with a salad or soup and order vegetarian or pescatarian when I dine out.  I save the high-quality animal-based protein for when I’m preparing food myself at home.  

Be high-maintenance. 

Have you ever had a waiter bring your food to the table, and the dish looks nothing like you imagined it would? Big bummer! 

It’s okay to ask questions before you order to find out how something is prepared, what comes on the side, or how large a portion you’ll be served. Go for items that are steamed, grilled, roasted, poached, or baked over things that are fried, crispy, or creamy. It’s perfectly socially-acceptable to request that your dish is prepared with olive oil instead of butter or other fats, that the sauce or dressing is served on the side, and to swap French fries for a double serving of veggies or quinoa. Small switches like these go a long way to healthy up your meal. 

Slow down.

Once your food arrives, take the time to enjoy it! Mindful eating involves paying attention to the flavors and textures of the food so you can fully savor the overall experience. Eating your meal slowly not only allows you to get the most out of the meal but may also lead you to eat less. Research tells us that it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message that your tummy is full, so by the time you get halfway through your plate, you may realize you’re already satisfied. And who doesn’t love leftovers?!

Achieve balance. 

Dining out is supposed to be an enjoyable experience, so don’t ruin all the fun by being too rigid with the rules. Remember this is only one meal, so choose your battles! Pass up the bread basket in return for a glass of wine, or keep your entrée light if you know you’ll want a bite of the must-try dessert. I will keep saying it: it’s all about balance! 

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