Five Rules For Staying Healthy When Eating Out
Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors
Five Rules For Staying Healthy When Eating OutLearn how and why to eat well while dining out with Julie Montagu's five simple tricks.
I’m constantly on the go... whether that’s chauffeuring my four kids around, teaching yoga, or cycling to get to a meeting... My days are pretty jam packed and I often get asked, “How do you eat healthily when you’re not in your own kitchen—especially when you’re out to lunch and dinner?”
Just because you want to eat a healthy diet doesn’t mean you have to become a social bore! I’m such an 80/20 kinda gal. It is the approach that works best for me. I eat well and clean 80 percent of the time and then the other 20 percent I eat foods that might not be 100 percent clean, but only in moderation.
It’s important not to stress about eating out as that can wreak more havoc on your body than the “unhealthy” meal you might have to eat. Remember this: It’s your journey, your adventure, your body, and your right to eating healthily! As with anything in life, it just takes time. So stay resilient in your path. Trust me, you will never ever regret it.
Rule 1: Keep it real
There is absolutely always going to be something healthy on the menu wherever you are dining out. The majority of places that serve food will have at least one salad on the menu and if not then the chef will more than likely be happy to make one for you. When you do order salad, remember to request the dressing on the side to avoid having your meal delivered with an unhealthy amount already drizzled on top.
If you don’t always want to eat salad then look through the menu to find simple dishes that are made from fresh or raw ingredients. Even if a restaurant doesn’t seem to offer too many healthy options, they will usually have a selection of vegetable side dishes that you can combine to create a healthy and filling main meal.
Another thing to look out for is dishes that are freshly made because that way they are less likely to be full of harmful preservatives. These might range from plastic contaminants to other chemicals, or even excessive amounts of sodium.
I generally advise that it is best to avoid packaged foods where possible and dining out is no exception. If the menu doesn’t specify whether the dish has been made fresh then your waiter or waitress will be able to let you know. It is also a common practice in restaurants to use salt, butter, and refined oils to improve the flavor of a recipe. Again, you can always ask the person serving you how the dish has been prepared to avoid this.
When eating out, watch out for any menu items described as “crispy,” “scalloped,” “Alfredo,” “gratin,” and “pan fried”—all indicators of an unhealthy choice!
Rule 2: Grilled or steamed, but not fried
Checking to see how a dish has been cooked will be of endless help to your diet efforts. Eating a plate of vegetables will be of detriment to any diet, if they have been fried in refined oils. The food in question will absorb fat from the oil and that can make a healthy option end up with a high fat content.
When we consume high levels of unhealthy fat our blood cholesterol levels increase and our arteries can become clogged over time. As the blood flow becomes restricted, we are then at a higher risk of high blood pressure, strokes, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
Opt instead for grilled or steamed dishes because these will be much lower in fat than their fried counterparts.
When foods are fried they usually cook at a much higher temperature than when grilled and steamed. Nutrients are easily destroyed when exposed to high temperatures and will rapidly lose their health benefits. However, when you grill a food, the excess fat usually drips away meaning more vitamins and minerals will be retained. Grilling will also help to seal in moisture, which helps to flavour the food, making it less likely that, any additional butter, salt, or oil will be deemed necessary.
Steaming is another great option when it comes to cooking and is one of the healthiest ways to do so. Nutrient loss is minimal and the structure and the flavour of the food in less effected. Although some people think steaming is generally only used to prepare vegetables, you can in fact cook almost anything in a steamer.
Additionally, no oil is required for steaming, which means your meal will be much lower in calories than if you were to fry it.
It may not always be noted on the menu how a dish has been prepared so it is always worth checking before you order.
Rule 3: Nix the starch (a.k.a. the bread basket), dressings, and sauces
Even in a healthy restaurant you can soon consume a large amount of calories when you indulge in the added extras. The three biggest culprits when it comes to this are the bread basket on your table, as well as the dressings and sauce that you add to your meal.
Avoiding the bread basket might be easier said than done but it is not impossible!
If you know that you are going to be waiting a while for your meal then make sure you have a small piece of fruit or a handful of nuts before you go. Not only will this help you to steer clear of the bread but research has also shown that eating an apple before a meal can aid in weight loss.
It is thought that the pectin found in apples will prevent the body from absorbing as much fat as it usually would. Pectin is also known to be an appetite suppressant, which will mean you are likely to eat less during your meal and if you’re not starving hungry then you’ll find it much easier to wait for your meal without diving into the bread basket!
If you order a salad and then cover it in dressing, this is the same concept as eating that plate of vegetables that has been fried in refined oils. You are essentially taking a healthy dish and making it incredibly bad for your health.
The majority of dressings are high in fat and calories, and you should never be adding more than one or two tablespoons at a maximum.
Sauces like tomato ketchup, mayonnaise, and BBQ sauce might immediately come to mind when you think of eating certain meals. Maybe you can’t even imagine eating your favorite dish without adding a large dollop of mayonnaise or ketchup first, but doing so can add up to a lot of extra calories and added sugar, too!
Even though you might argue that you are enhancing the flavour of your meal and thereby increasing how much you are going to enjoy it, the truth is that you are probably just doing so out of habit. Best to enjoy these sauces at home with a wholesome, homemade ketchup, BBQ sauce, and mayonnaise so that you know exactly what’s going into them.
Rule 4: Drink water before your meal
Keeping hydrated is great for weight loss, the appearance of your skin, the health of your cells, and your energy levels among many other things. Regularly drinking water through the day is important but drinking a glass of water immediately before a meal can be beneficial to health.
Weight loss is one of the most sought after benefits of drinking water before a meal. Drinking water can create a sense of fullness, which means you’ll tend to consume fewer calories, but it will also hydrate you so you’re less likely to choose a calorie-loaded beverage to go with your food.
Stress and genetics both play a part in the appearance of your skin but adequate hydration is also a huge contributing factor. Make it a habit to drink a glass of water before each meal and you be improving the health of your skin effortlessly.
We have up to a trillion cells in our bodies and taking care of them is essential for optimum health. In order for our cells to stay healthy, nutrients have to be able to get in while toxins must be able to be removed effectively. This process of nutrients entering and toxins leaving is known as “cell turnover,” and plays a huge part in good health.
As well as providing nourishment itself, water also carries nutrients into cells, making it doubly important to drink up!
Water is one of the main sources of energy for the body and it is always a better idea to be constantly hydrated instead of waiting until you get thirsty. By waiting until you are thirsty you are allowing your energy stores to become depleted and this will also often mean you don’t drink enough water throughout the day.
Not drinking enough water means you’ll urinate less and this can be a bad thing for your kidneys. The process of urination removes certain toxins from the body that have been filtered by the kidneys.
If your urine is colorless then it’s a good sign that you’re drinking enough water, however, if it’s yellow or darker then you need more hydration.
Rule 5: The one-for-one rule
When you go out for a meal it is much easier to give into the temptation of an alcoholic drink than if you were at home.
Good company, a great atmosphere, and the feeling of being out treating yourself can make it easy to get carried away with alcohol. If you want to enjoy yourself without too many restrictions then the best thing to do is to get strategic with your drinks.
Stick to the “one-for-one rule,” which basically means you drink a glass of water after every alcoholic beverage you have. Make sure that you don’t order another alcoholic drink until you have finished the glass of water—no cheating!
The additional water will help your body to metabolize the alcohol and to keep you hydrated during the night.
One of healthiest drinks you can choose from the drinks menu is red wine. It is rich in antioxidants and promotes cardiovascular health, because of the wealth of resveratrol contained within.
On the other side of the spectrum are cocktails, such as margaritas and pina coladas, both of which are laden with calories. You might not find it at every establishment but sake is one of my favourites when it comes to making healthy alcohol choices.
Sake is a Japanese dry wine made from fermented rice and is believed to contribute to cardiovascular health. It is slightly higher in alcohol percentage than most wines and can be enjoyed hot, chilled, or at room temperature.
Take these five Simple Rules when eating out and you’ll be well on your way to healthy eating for life.
Editor's Note: Learn more healthy eating tips and tricks like these in Julie's first book with Hay House, Eat Real Food