How to Eat Healthy When Eating OutHow to Eat Healthy When Eating Out

Most people enjoy eating out at restaurants occasionally, especially to celebrate special events or to spend time with friends and loved ones. The good news is that your waistline doesn’t have to suffer just because you’re dining away from home. By following a few healthy eating tips, you can continue making good dietary choices.

You may have been a healthy eater all your life, or just recently refocused your efforts. Unfortunately, as we get older, our metabolisms slow down (about 10% every 10 years), so that even people once accustomed to eating without care may have to watch their caloric intake. In addition, other natural factors of aging can affect nutrient absorption and the ability to regulate water, meaning that you’ll need to up your nutrients (Vitamin B and D specifically) and drink more water.

Many dining establishments and even fast food restaurants today offer nutritional values on their menus or websites, so it’s easier than ever to ensure that you’re making good choices when eating out. A handy guideline specifically for a older adult’s meal would be:

  • 300 to 500 calories per serving
  • less than 30% fat
  • less than 10% saturated fat
  • 30 to 45g of carbohydrates

If you’re not into counting calories and grams, here are five simple and easy ways to make healthier choices when dining out.

1. Pass on the pre-meal bread.

Not only can it “ruin your supper” like your mother warned, it is also a source for many empty calories. If it’s just too tempting or hard to avoid sitting on your table, you can ask your waiter to remove it or to not bring it in the first place. Drink a nice tall glass of water and focus on great conversation with your fellow diners.

2. Avoid the fryer.

While fried food is admittedly delicious, it’s packed with hidden fat and sodium. It’s fine in moderation, but if you’re really trying to make better choices, pick menu items that are labeled as steamed or grilled.

3. Add a veggie.

A great rule of thumb is to try to include a vegetable with every meal you eat. Sounds simple but it can really make a difference in helping you get the recommended 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. Unfortunately, some vegetables are super-high in carbohydrates (like potatoes) and can cause your blood sugar level to spike, leaving you hungrier sooner afterwards. When possible, choose dark green, leafy vegetables like spinach or broccoli. Again, look for veggies that are steamed, and be on the lookout for added fats and calories from butter, cheese, and bacon (avoid the “loaded” versions of the vegetables).

4. Watch portion size.

Many restaurants offer smaller portions of meals, so choose these and instead add a side salad (choose lite dressing or balsamic vinegar to top it). Try to eat slowly and you’ll be surprised that you’ll often feel fuller if you give your stomach the time to process the meal (it can take up to 30 minutes for your brain to receive the signals from your stomach that it’s getting full). Another easy option is to ask for a to-go box as soon as you get your meal, and immediately divide your portion in half, saving half the order for leftovers. Having it boxed up and out of sight reduces the temptation to clean your plate and overeat.

5. Speaking of cleaning your plate…

You really don’t have to. Many boomers today were raised as part of the “clean plate club.” During hard economic times, wasting food was practically a sin, and mothers and fathers across America monitored their children’s’ plates carefully to make sure every bite was eaten. Remind yourself that it’s okay to not eat everything on your plate; instead, start with the parts you like best and stop or slow down at the first signs you’re getting full. Use the doggie bag trick listed above to take even more pressure off, knowing that the rest of your meal won’t go to waste.

There’s no need to avoid eating out occasionally if you follow these simple tips and monitor your body weight weekly or monthly to catch any changes that might occur. Happy and healthy dining!

Megan Hammons lives in the Central Texas countryside just outside of Austin, pursuing her love for copywriting after a career in high-tech marketing. She is part of a large, diverse family and enjoys spending time with the multiple generations living in her community.

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