How to Stay Healthy When Eating Out

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Have you ever spent a month busting your ass in the gym, eating clean and reaping the benefits only to feel like you ruined it all in one night at a dinner out with friends? Do you ever stress about going out to eat because you don’t know what to order to maintain your healthy diet? I’ve  definitely been in that position more than once and I hear this from clients all the time. Home cooked meals are great, but nobody wants to be restricted to only eating at home and missing out on girls night or a fun date. Socializing and relaxing is just as important to our well being as a healthy diet and exercise. Thankfully, there are ways to eat clean when you’re out a restaurant - just put in a little preparation and thought. I’ve listed some of my personal favorite tips for eating out in general, brunching, and going out for sushi, Mexican and Italian food. These are tips I’ve used for years and shared with my clients - if you stick to them, you’ll have your cake and eat it too (actually, no cake. But you will be able to go out with friends stress free:).

GENERAL DINING OUT TIPS:

  1. Check out the menu beforehand. I love using Yelp for this - I read reviews to see what the restaurant is known for (great ceviche? Perfect.) and check out their menu to see what options might work for my diet (this oftentimes involves some type of grilled fish and veggies). 
  2. Don’t go starving. That would be like going to the market on an empty stomach. Never a good idea. Gauge your hunger level two hours before dinner. If you’re really hungry, have a small snack (veggies + hummus or an apple with nut butter), but don’t go overboard. You want to enjoy the meal at the restaurant and you also don’t want to end up doubling your calorie intake by eating two meals. 
  3. ALWAYS get the salad dressing on the side. Restaurants have a tendency to load up on high calorie, sugary dressings. Instead, ask for it on the side and use olive oil and lemon
  4. Ask what oil is used to cook your food. Some restaurants use canola oil, which I personally try to avoid as most of it is made from genetically modified plants (rapeseed). I prefer coconut or olive oils.
  5. Simplicity is key. Salads might usually seem like a healthy option, but when they’re so complex and filled with ingredients, they can be overloaded with sodium and sugar and way higher in calories than you would think. I find that a simple grilled fish and side of steamed veggies is an easy, delicious choice. 
  6. Put your phone away. The point of going out to dinner it to socialize, so there’s no need to be staring at your phone the whole time. But it also distracts you from realizing when you’re full. 
  7. Fill up on veggies. When in doubt, order a side of steamed veggies with your meal and fill up on those first. 
  8. Drink water or green tea. Both great options, no calories and no sugar. 
  9. Split your dish with a friend or in half and take the other half home as leftovers. Most restaurants have portions that are at least two serving sizes. 

SUSHI: 

  1. Fill up on veggies. My personal favorites are shishito peppers (ask for them cooked with no soy sauce, instead sautéed in light olive oil and lemon) and a side salad with olive oil and lemon. 
  2. Skip the soy/ponzu/eel sauce. Skip all the sauces. Use ginger and lemon to add flavor. 
  3. Sashimi is your friend. It’s a great source of protein, low in calories and tastes great with a little ginger, wasabi and those veggies you ordered. One 4 oz serving of albacore tuna sashimi has about 31g of protein, 2g of fat and 150 calories. 
  4. If you want rice with your sushi, opt for brown rice if it’s available. Brown rice is a whole grain, whereas white rice has had the the most nutritious parts removed, the bran and the germ. 
  5. Handrolls without rice are another great option. I discovered this trick when I first started Whole30. I couldn’t eat rice, but also didn't want to miss out on my sushi. Turns out handrolls don’t need rice to be delicious. A couple of my favorites: California with double vegetables, blue crab with avocado and cucumber and yellowtail scallion with avocado and cucumber. 

 

ITALIAN:

  1. Opt for the fish and steamed or sautéed veggies instead of the pasta or pizza. Just remember to ask what the fish is cooked in, because Italian restaurants have a tendency to cook in a white wine butter sauce - ask for light olive oil instead. 
  2. Dying for pasta? See if they have a whole wheat option and order a red or fresh tomato and basil sauce over the creamy sauce. 
  3. Skip the bread basket, especially if you’re planning to dive into a bowl of yummy pasta. 
  4. Drink a glass of water for each glass of vino - it will help you stay hydrated. 

 

MEXICAN:

  1. The chip basket is a friend and a foe. If you can go to a Mexican restaurant and stay away from the chips and salsa/guac, I commend you. But if you aren’t one of those people (ahem, me), ask the server if they have sliced jicama, cucumber or celery to dip instead of the chips. After all, it’s basically just a vessel for the guac and all three of these options still provide the crunch you would get with a chip. 
  2. Order lettuce wrapped tacos. 
  3. Fajitas are a great option for meat eaters and vegetarians (a lot of mexican restaurants provide a veggie fajita option). Skip the sour cream and top your fajitas with fresh tomatoes, lettuce and salsa. Skip the tortillas and eat them with a fork. 
  4. Dying for a margarita? They're one of my favorites, especially in the Summer. Ask for a skinny margarita - silver tequila, fresh squeezed lime juice and a tiny splash of Cointreau. 

 

BRUNCH:

  1. A veggie omelette is always a good option. Top it with avocado for a little added healthy fat (this will help you stay fuller longer). 
  2. Avoid the sugary pastries and fruit juice and order a side of fresh fruit to calm your sugar cravings. 
  3. Swap the breakfast potatoes or hash browns for a side salad with olive oil and lemon. 
  4. What’s Sunday brunch without a mimosa? Skip the juice and have the champagne alone. More alcohol and less sugar. Sounds like a win-win situation to me!