Season time in Goa marks the months of date nights, dinner parties, house parties and girl’s nights out. Valentine’s Day gives us that extra excuse to dine out on the town, there’s nothing more comforting than making dinner reservations at a cozy neighborhood restaurant. However, while dining out is great for your social schedule and taste buds, it’s not always so great for your waistline. Eating out more lately has been making us notice a few things like how big the portions are, how there much more added salt, oil and msg is in the dishes, and the desire to have those glasses of wine. With all these temptations in mind, here are some tips we turn to that help us focus on making healthy choices at a restaurant while you’re out on the town…
- Research the menu ahead of time.
This tip is so simple yet so effective: Do your research before your reservation. It’s easy to look up a restaurant menu online nowadays, eg Zomato and it’s a good idea to have a game plan going into a night of eating out. If you decide ahead of time on a healthier dish like halibut and veggies, you won’t be as tempted to impulsively order the pasta with alfredo sauce when hunger cravings kick in.
- Know a list of healthy swaps.
Just as it’s smart to be prepared with your menu order ahead of time, it’s also a great idea to prepare a mental list of healthy swaps before you step foot into the restaurant. Hungry enough for an appetizer but don’t want to scoff down the entire bread basket? Ask the waiter to bring a plate of your favourite salad or healthy vegetarian appetizers and skip the rolls all together. Craving the grilled chicken but not so crazy about filling up on the side of starchy mashed potatoes it comes with? Ask for steamed asparagus or broccoli instead. Knowing that you’re going to make healthy swaps when possible is an easy way to guarantee a healthier meal.
- The Portion rule.
One of the trickiest things about eating at a restaurant is that the portions tend to be so much larger (and richer) than what you would normally serve at home. To account for the fact that we will most likely be served a portion that will leave us feeling fuller, let’s try to stick to the 80/20 rule when dining out. This means eating only 80 percent of the portion served to us at a restaurant, then taking a moment to evaluate our fullness before finishing our meal. It’s all too easy to gobble down your entire dish when it’s right in front of you, especially when there’s good conversation and great ambiance around. So, taking a moment of pause is a great way to portion control. If you find that you’re still hungry after taking that moment, then keep nibbling by all means! If not, ask for a to-go container. Another great way to control restaurant-size portions is to split your dishes. You’re likely to get a better variety of flavours by splitting, say, a salad and an entrée, without the guilt and discomfort of polishing off a massive serving.
- Choose one Indulgence.
Whether it’s a glass of wine, the bread basket, or dessert, we recommend choosing what will your “indulgence” of the night will be. Indulging in a glass of wine or a delicious dessert is more worth it. This rule of thumb helps us to feel like we’re having a treat, while still sticking with healthful goals throughout the meal. Of course, there are instances where it’s okay to loosen up a bit and have your cake and eat it too, but if we’re talking about sticking with a healthy eating plan while at a restaurant, then choosing one indulgence is the way to go.
- When in doubt, go green.
The more greens you eat, the better off you are. This doesn’t just apply to eating at restaurants, but at home too. Prioritizing greens is especially helpful when everyone else is ordering fried or carb-heavy appetizers, instead, go for the green starter salad. This begins your meal with fiber and nutrients, which will help you start to feel full before you’ve even gotten your entrée, a side of grilled or roasted veggies is always a good idea!
Do you have any tips for sticking with your clean and healthy eating habits while dining out at restaurants?