What to Eat When Eating Out

I often get asked for suggestions on how to eat healthy while dining out.
With a little advance planning and proper restaurant selection, it’s not that hard.

  1. Start with ethnic restaurants rather than standard American fare.  I have found that ethnic restaurants normally have more vegetarian or vegan selections than most traditional American menus.  And since most ethnic restaurants use quite a few beans in their dishes, making substitutions on the menu is easy.  If you choose Mexican, simply order bean dishes and skip the cheese (You might want to call ahead and see if they use lard in beans).  If Middle Eastern restaurants are your choice, be sure to check out the hummus, tabouleh, eggplant dishes and vegetarian stuffed grape leaves.  Oriental restaurants have recently started offering steamed brown rice and they always have a plethora of tofu and mixed vegetable dishes.
  2. You always hear to ask your sever to have the sauces, gravies and toppings on the side – but it really works.  It is amazing how good food can be when it’s down drowned.  And don’t feel funny about making special requests.  Servers like to oblige you in the hopes of a nice tip.  So, ask away!
  3. More and more restaurants are now offering a preview of their menu selections online.  Be sure to do a quick check ahead of time so you leave with a good game plan, rather than let your hunger cause you go to overboard once you get there.  Also, if you can’t find anything you feel comfortable eating, find another restaurant.  It’s easier to change restaurants before you get there than it is to suffer through another side salad while everyone else enjoys a full meal.
  4. When perusing the restaurant’s menu, be sure to check out the side dishes, salads and appetizers.  Often times, I make a full meal by combining a variety of side dishes.
  5. Don’t leave your house or office with a raging appetite.  It’s amazing how an empty, growling stomach can talk even the most seasoned health nut into indulging in pretty awful food.  Be sure to have a low calorie, high fiber snack before leaving the house so you are in control and not your tummy.
  6. Beware of mindless eating once you arrive at the restaurant.  Sit far away from the basket of chips, rolls, peanuts or loaf of bread.  Or better yet, have the server remove them or not bring them at all.  Out of sight is out of mind and mindless eating can rack up the calories faster than you can say “Jack be nimble”.
  7. Split the entrée with a friend or pack up half at the start of the meal.  In order to attract more clientele, restaurants have started serving larger and larger portions.  Don’t be embarrassed to split an entrée or pack up half at the beginning of the meal.  If you wait to pack up half at the end of the meal, you may just find that there is nothing left.  Good company and lively talk have a way of making food disappear.
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