When you start a conversation about living a health-conscious life, eating out is bound to come up. Many people are worried that they’ll never be able to go to a restaurant again if they’re going to lead a healthy life.
That just isn’t true! You don’t have to stay at home and live in a bubble to live a health-conscious life. In this article I want to empower you with tips and tools to stay healthy when you are eating out.
1. Check out the menu online beforehand.
Most restaurants have their menu posted on their website. Perusing the online menu before you go will give you extra time to make an educated, healthy choice.
2. Keep the bread and chip baskets away.
That dreaded basket of grainy goodness will be the antithesis of eating out healthily. Many people have a gluten or grain sensitivity and they don’t even know it. Wheat is a genetically hybridized crop, and corn is often genetically modified. Even if you don’t have a diagnosed sensitivity, or you know you’re getting an organic wheat or corn, with their empty calories and refined carbohydrates, these nutrient-deficient foods will be an impediment to living a healthy life.
3. Bring your own condiments and dressings.
Many of my patients think I’m extreme with this tip, but I think it can be very helpful! Salad dressings and condiments like ketchup are typically filled with processed sugars; inflammatory oils like canola, soy and corn; and artificial additives. Keeping healthy versions of these in your purse or bag will ensure you’re not unnecessarily exposing yourself to foods that have a simple, healthy alternative.
4. Have a healthy snack before you go.
You may be thinking, “What’s the point of eating out if I am going to before I go to the restaurant!” I’m not suggesting you eat a full meal beforehand, but a little healthy snack will curb your craving to dive into the bread or chip basket when you first sit down.
5. Keep it simple.
When you’re at a restaurant and are trying to eat healthily, typically the simpler the meal the better. A dish without added sauces or breading will avoid all the additives that are usually in them.
6. Speak up for yourself.
This is sometimes hard to do, but asking questions about the menu and mentioning you have some food restrictions is essential to staying healthy when at restaurants.
7. Look at the gluten-free menu.
Many places now carry and label gluten-free choices. I’ve written in the past about how going gluten can be healthy or unhealthy, but generally speaking, when you know a food doesn’t have gluten, it’s a step in the right direction.
8. Ask for vegetables or a salad as a side substitute.
Instead of having fried foods or grains, ask for a side of steamed vegetables or a salad. This is an easy tip that you can use just about anywhere.
9. Ask what oil your food is cooked in.
Restaurants usually use cheaper oils, like canola or vegetable, to cook with. These oils are highly inflammatory polyunsaturated omega-6 fats that have a low smoking point and are easily oxidized. I can’t wait for the day when restaurants use coconut oil or grass-fed butter, but for now, asking for a fat that can withstand heat will be your best option. Olive is a great option for cold uses like dressings, but will oxidize easily when heated.
10. Avoid salad dressings.
Normally filled with sugars, bad oils and trans fats, I would suggest either bringing your own or asking for olive oil and vinegar. Keep in mind, this is not the same as a vinaigrette, which typically has those added ingredients that turn something healthy to an unhealthy choice.
11. Check sauces.
Asking what’s in the sauce you are using is a good tip. Sauces are notorious for hidden gluten and refined sugars. Asking for olive oil as a sauce is a great healthy alternative.
12. Support health-conscious restaurants.
There are a growing number of restaurants that offer healthy, real food options. Menus filled with delicious, healthy meals will make it so much more enjoyable for you! Seek them out in your area and tell them you stand with them by supporting their health conscious business.
13. Do your best, then don’t stress.
Use all of these tips, then let the rest go and enjoy yourself! You can’t control everything, so give yourself grace. Your body is resilient and has survived this long, so don’t stress. Be encouraged and go enjoy some good food!