Eating Fit While Dining Out
Make healthy menu choices when away from home
For some, dining out is an occasional indulgence. For others, it’s a way of life. If this year has taught us anything, it is how valuable our health is. And fortunately, there are things we can do to effortlessly make healthy choices while dining out. Here are five simple strategies to get you started:
Look for the Eat Fit Seal of Approval
Ochsner Eat Fit is a statewide, nonprofit initiative that works with restaurants, markets and beyond to highlight nutritious and delicious menu options. We are a team of dietitians with the goal of empowering our communities to live their strongest, healthiest lives possible by providing easily accessible education and resources on wellness and nutrition. If you are dining out and see the orange Eat Fit seal next to a menu item, you’ll know without a doubt you are making a healthy choice. These restaurant dishes meet the needs of those who want to eat healthfully, watch their weight, manage inflammation, blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol and more. The full nutrition facts for each Eat Fit dish can be found on the free Eat Fit smartphone app, along with brand-specific shopping guides, access to hundreds of Eat Fitapproved recipes, and where to find Eat Fit restaurant partners near you.
Make a Plan
If you are anything like me, you know your Friday night dinner plans by Monday morning. Continue to plan ahead by scoping out the menu in advance before you even get to the restaurant. Having your mind made up will help to keep you on track and distract you from the enticing menu descriptions or pictures of other dishes. It also gives you something to look forward to.
Keep Hunger Under Control
We’ve all been there – it’s lunchtime, but you have big dinner plans for later that evening. You don’t want to eat too much at lunch because you want to save room to fully enjoy and indulge at dinner. If you go to a Mexican restaurant with complimentary chips and salsa, before you know it, you’ve scarfed down two baskets of chips prior to your meal arriving. This tends to result in eating until you’re uncomfortably full and can barely get up from the table. So, yes, go ahead and eat your lunch – and perhaps even a light snack – before dinner! You will be glad you did.
Be Intentional When Ordering
Don’t be afraid to ask your server questions about certain menu items (e.g., how they’re prepared, what seasonings are used, what oil they are cooked in). Most restaurants will also allow you to customize your side choices, so double up on the vegetables or opt for a side salad or fruit cup rather than fries or chips.
A few tips to keep things a little lighter: Order light seasoning, no butter, or salad dressing on the side. Or if you’re not that hungry, just order your meal à la carte and skip the sides altogether. The wording on a restaurant menu can also give you a very good idea of how that item is prepared. Choose dishes with words like “grilled, steamed, baked or broiled.” Stray away from dishes with descriptors like “smothered, fried or creamy.”
Order Beverages Wisely
Calories can sneak up on you quickly when it comes to beverages, especially with free refills. Choose plain or sparkling water or an unsweetened tea with lemon. If you are a true southerner and think there is no way you can drink unsweetened tea, order it, and sweeten it yourself. My family always teases me for having Stevia in my purse, which comes in handy more than you’d think.
The bottom line: Yes, we absolutely can make healthy choices while dining out; it may just take a little more preparation and thought. Our Eat Fit team is happy to help and be a resource for you in any way.
And, mark your calendars for our annual Eat Fit Dine Out Day on Friday, June 4. This is a day to celebrate our incredible restaurant partners. We encourage everyone to dine out or take out on this day; all proceeds stay within the restaurants. Our restaurants nourish our community year-round with their Eat Fit dishes, and now it’s our turn to help nourish them!
Anna Walter, RDE, is the operations and marketing specialist for Eat Fit Shreveport, a nonprofit initiative of Ochsner Health. Visit www.EatFitShreveport for more information, follow @EatFitShreveport on Facebook and Instagram for the latest Eat Fit updates, and sign up for the Eat Fit Wellness Bites weekly newsletter.