8 Smart Tips for How to Eat Healthy at Restaurants
Maintaining a brain healthy diet filled with whole foods, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean protein, and complex carbohydrates is easiest if you have control over your meals – and most of us do at home.
It becomes more challenging when eating out.
In fact, research shows that restaurant meals in countries all over the world have larger portions and more calories. Studies also show that eating meals out is associated with higher sodium intake.
Thankfully, health experts and dietitians have a treasure trove of tips for healthy eating at restaurants and how to eat healthy while traveling – and you’ll find the best of them below!
8 Quick Tips for How to Eat Healthy at Restaurants
- Plan Ahead
There’s a lot you can do to ensure you have a healthy dining experience when you eat out, starting with the choice of restaurant. Choose with health in mind!
Peruse menus ahead of time to ensure there are plenty of brain healthy options such as quality proteins – lean meats, poultry, and fish, or tofu, nuts and beans if you’re vegan or vegetarian – as well as plenty of salads, vegetables, and healthy fats.
If you have specific dietary needs, email or call the restaurant you select and make sure that they will be able to accommodate you. Select a few potential menu items before you go.
Also, be sure you aren’t ravenous or too thirsty before you dine out. If you enjoy a snack of protein and fruit or vegetables and drink plenty of water before you eat out, you’ll be less likely to eat too much.
- Don’t Drink Your Calories
Skip the alcohol. It’s usually loaded with calories and is hard on the body and brain. It also loosens inhibitions, which makes it more likely you’ll make poor food choices.
Skip sodas and juices too – they’re loaded with sugar. Choose water, iced tea, herbal tea, mineral water, or decaf coffee.
- Limit the Bread or Chip Basket
Many restaurants offer bread and most Mexican restaurants offer chips and salsa. Either immediately ask your server to take them away or if you can trust yourself to be moderate, take one piece of bread or a handful of chips, and set it on a plate for yourself. Then ask the server to take it away.
- Adjust Your Portion
Unless you’re having a fine dining experience, most restaurant portions are oversized. Accept this ahead of time and have a plan.
Many couples split an appetizer or an entrée. If you’re dining alone, consider ordering two appetizers rather than a large entrée. Or, if you order a large entrée, get a to-go box and enjoy the leftovers the following day.
- Swap and Add
Considering that a balanced meal generally has a quality protein and ample veggies – shape your meals to fit the balanced meal model.
If you order a sandwich that comes with chips or fries, swap them out for fruit or a salad. With a dinner entrée, swap fries for vegetables, whole grain rice, or quinoa.
It’s always a good idea to go with more veggies since most Americans don’t get enough vegetables in their diet.
- Choose Healthy Preparations
Fried and sauteed veggies, meats, poultry, and fish typically have more salt and fat. Choose a preparation that’s better for your health, such as:
These cooking methods generally have much less fat and sodium.
- Elevate Your Dressings and Sauces
Dressings, sauces, and condiments can add a lot of saturated fat, sugar, and sodium to a meal. Ask for your dressings and sauces on the side.
A little olive oil and lemon with an occasional dip of your fork in your salad dressing can help to make a salad healthier.
Choose broth-based soups over cream-based soups. If you’re having pasta, opt for a tomato-based sauce over cream-based.
- Tea, Coffee, or Fruit for Dessert
Here’s a novel idea: Skip dessert!
Avoiding desserts reduces sugar and fat intake. It may be hard initially, but it’s easier than you think. Create new, healthier habits!
Most fine restaurants will be happy to bring you plain, fresh berries instead. Or order a cup of tea or decaf coffee. If it’s a special occasion and you don’t have an issue with moderating your sweets, share a dessert with others.
4 Healthy Eating Tips for Travel
Keep the eating out tips in mind when you travel, as well as these tips mostly centered on air travel.
- Pack Snacks
Preparing healthy snacks can pay huge dividends on travel days.
Most airlines offer terrible food, if any at all. Take advantage of the fact that TSA allows you to bring non-liquid food items through security and pack healthy snacks. (They work just as well for train or car travel.)
Ideal choices might be whole fruit, grass-fed jerky, healthy granola, roasted or raw (not salted) nuts, dried fruit, nut butters, low-sugar protein bars, hummus and veggie sticks, or boiled eggs. (Be aware that semi-liquid items like nut butters, hummus, and yogurt must be packed in 3.4-ounce containers (or less) and placed in a quart-size bag. You only get one bag allowed for your liquid items in your carry-on bag.)
- Eat Before You Go
Though there may be times when you can’t, always try to eat before you travel. If you’re flying, buy your meal in the airport terminal. It will be better than what the airline offers.
- Stay Hydrated
Traveling can be dehydrating. When flying, TSA will make you toss your water, so pack an empty water bottle. Or buy a water bottle after you pass through security.
You can have your water bottle filled on your flight. You may also want to pack some herbal tea bags. Drink tea on your flight for hydration!
- Go Food Shopping
Once you get to your destination, fill up your hotel room refrigerator or rental kitchen with loads of healthy options (especially quick breakfast items) as soon as you arrive! It will set the tone for making healthy choices throughout your travels.
It takes some effort to ensure you’re nourishing your brain and body with the right foods when dining out or traveling, but our modern lives truly do require mastering this skill for optimal health.
At BrainMD, we’re dedicated to providing the highest purity nutrients to improve your physical health and overall well-being. For more information about our full list of brain healthy supplements, please visit us at BrainMD.
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