For the health-conscious diner who loves eating out with friends but can’t face high calorie meals, use this 10-point guide to remain mindful, in control – and have fun too!
1. Choose the restaurant wisely
An obvious one, but avoid restaurants that serve unhealthy food, or where you know there won’t be healthy alternatives. Fried food is acceptable in moderation but if there’re no lower GI, carb-free or fresh fruit and veg options then rather take your business to a place that does.
2. Go prepared: look at the menu first
If you’re going to a restaurant for the first time and aren’t sure of the dishes or portion sizes, Google it. Find the menu on their website or online and evaluate if there’re any options you can enjoy. Then make the decision before you arrive and stick to it.
3. Don’t arrive ravenous
Have a small, healthy snack before so you don’t order on an empty stomach (and aren’t tempted to double-size). No chef in the world is better than hunger, so avoid that “I’ll eat anything I can get my hands on” impulse.
4. Drink water before
Drink water to ensure your appetite is actual hunger and not dehydration. Order bottled water/glasses of water at the table, and avoid sweet drinks like cocktails – they’re extremely high in empty calories.
6. Focus on healthy ingredients first and foremost and substitute unhealthy ones.
Choose vegetables or salad as a side rather than fries (and always order dressing on the side). Balance your meal by including healthier selections from all the different food groups such as lean protein foods, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Look for freshly made entrée salads that give you “balance in a bowl”.
6. Eat slowly
Chew your food well and chew slowly so that you feel fuller quicker. Putting your utensils down between bites also helps slow the meal down.
7. Control portions
Divide food and eat only half, take the rest home for lunch tomorrow, or share with a friend. Sharing two starters with a friend as opposed to one heavy main also helps to keep portion sizes down.
8. Avoid all-you-can-eat buffets
All-you-can-eat buffets are the easiest way to overeat – all that delicious-looking food in one place! If all you have is a buffet option, use a small plate and dish up small servings; going back again and again will quickly get tiresome and it will slow down the meal time.
9. Skip dessert
Instead of dessert order a cup of coffee or espresso. Coffee is an appetite suppressor and carries significantly fewer calories. If you have a sweet craving use sweetener to combat the urge.
10. Don’t snack on the bread basket
Use your willpower to avoid snacking on the evil bread basket. Bread is a refined carbohydrate and nutrient deficient (and many people are gluten intolerant without knowing it) so there’s no point in ingesting something that isn’t necessarily good for you.