>> January 27, 2012

Tips for Dining Out

Fre­quent eat­ing out isn’t healthy for any­one. Not only will it expand your waist­line, but it’s sure to lean out your wal­let. It may seem like $7 here and $12 there, but it adds up. I rec­om­mend lim­it­ing eat­ing out to 1–2 times per week. (If you take me up on this rec­om­men­da­tion, DON’T freak out at your first gro­cery bill. Wait until the end of the month, and you’ll be shocked how much money you saved.)

How­ever, I’ll be the first to admit cook­ing every meal at home is unre­al­is­tic. Not only does life hap­pen and we get pushed for time, but with ministry, we all have people in our lives. Birth­days, hol­i­days, and meet-ups at restau­rants are unavoid­able.

When you do treat your­self to din­ing out, here are some guide­lines to help you stay on track with your health & fitness.

Eat your calo­ries — don’t drink them! Water is the best option, but you can also opt for unsweet­ened tea. If you have to sweeten it, carry some ste­via with you, as many arti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers can be just as bad for you as reg­u­lar sugar.

Scan the menu for key words. Aim to order dishes that con­tain words like grilled, steamed, broiled, or broth. Avoid menu items that con­tain words like fried or creamy.

Skip the appetizer.…at least as an actual appe­tizer. The extra 10–15 min­utes to wait won’t kill you, and this will help elim­i­nate eat­ing excess calo­ries. How­ever, if there’s a healthy choice as an appe­tizer, it could make a great choice as your entree. Appe­tizer serv­ing sizes gen­er­ally aren’t as large, and prices are usu­ally more rea­son­able as well.

Don’t assume every salad is healthy. A fried chicken salad with ranch dress­ing, cheese, bacon and crou­tons can have more calo­ries than a Big Mac, large fries and large Coke. If you do order a salad, fill it with veg­gies and lean pro­tein like grilled chicken, salmon or shrimp. Also, ask for vinai­grette dress­ing on the side, dip­ping each bite as you go.

Side items count. Just because you were good and ordered grilled chicken, don’t ruin it with french fries and mac and cheese on the side. Even if not on the menu, most restau­rants will usu­ally bring you a side of fruit or steamed veg­gies if you ask. (Remem­ber — you are the pay­ing cus­tomer. Don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions!)

Ask ques­tions. I’m always sur­prised how “healthy” menu items come as pre­pared in the kitchen, such as steamed veg­gies that are served drown­ing in but­ter. Ask your waiter before­hand how what you’re order­ing is pre­pared and make adjust­ments to suit your health needs. (Don’t be afraid to send it back if it’s not cor­rect. Always be polite, but there’s noth­ing wrong with get­ting exactly what you ordered.)

Avoid the bread bas­ket. Most restau­rants serve but­tered white bread, which is full of fat and sim­ple carbs…empty calo­ries, which will not make you feel full, caus­ing you to overeat.

Eat half. If you’re din­ing with a health-conscious friend, find an entree you can split. If you can’t agree on any­thing, when the waiter comes back with your order, ask for a doggy bag. Put half of your meal away, and eat the other half. If you ordered wisely, it’ll be a fine lunch for tomorrow.

Have a bite of dessert. That’s right — a bite! Buy a dessert for every­one at the table to share. That way, every­one gets a taste of some­thing sweet, but no one pigs out.


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