Christmas and New Year’s Eve now seem far behind us.
The Turkey’s been eaten, the prosecco has run dry, the last few Celebrations have been demolished and we are well into tackling the next festive ritual – a New Year health kick.
And if like many people you’ve made a New Year resolution to shift a few pounds, or just choose healthier choices in general – eating can be a challenge.
Especially when those relatives you didn’t get to spend time with over Christmas plan get-togethers that involve big meals, co- workers want to go for drinks, and you’ve got Birthday dinners to attend.
I don’t know about you but each week since New Year’s day, I’ve been invited out to eat in restaurants at least twice a week, if not more!
And even though eating out at restaurants is usually blamed as a culprit for making it harder to make healthy choices and stick to our new eating habits – you can still have your cake and eat it too.
Which is why I wanted to share some suggestions with you today about how you can eat healthier in restaurants so you can keep on the right track this year with your health goals.
It starts with restaurant selection – making healthy choices starts with where you’re eating. Menus from American, Italian and Chinese restaurants tend to heave the least healthiest options.
When deciding where to go for dinner, opt for cuisines centered around whole grains, veggies, good fats and lean protein (Greek, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Indian and Japanese), and you’ll have a more nutritious meal.
Also consider eating out at places with menus that change seasonally, as this means they’re likely to cook up fresh, seasonal, local produce. Not only does that make for more veg-heavy meals, but you’ll also notice how much better the food tastes too.
But what if your partner and friends don’t want to go to one of those restaurants?
Well, there’s a solution for that. Think leftovers.
If the Italian restaurant in the town is the only place your friends want to go, you don’t have to just order the salad...
While portion sizes have grown over the years that doesn’t mean you have to skip past the meal you’ve been eyeing up on the menu. Instead take advantage of the bigger portion sizes, and order what you want with the mindset that half of it will come home with you.
The best leftovers are ones that won’t suffer from re-heating or hanging out in your fridge for a day. Think meaty steaks, creamy pasta dishes and rich risottos.
Plus, when you have leftovers you’re getting a two-for-one deal, and it feels great to save a bit of money.
The next piece of advice I want to give you is this, even if you’re going out for an evening meal, eat all day long as you usually would.
Seriously. If you know you’ll be eating at a place that serves rich food and big portions, one of the best ways to avoid overdoing it isn’t to ‘make room’ for dinner later, but to eat (as you normally would) throughout the day.
Your body isn’t balanced when you’re hungry, and skipping meals to make up for a big one can cause all sorts of havoc with the body – including storing MORE weight.
So aim to eat a filling, healthy breakfast, a light lunch and some healthy snacks. It’ll be easier to resist more indulgence if you do.
Another thing, you know that bread basket a lot of restaurants bring out while you’re deciding on what to order that’s always tempting? You don’t need it.
If you really want to snack on something before your main meal is served – opt for a lighter starter like a prawn cocktail, or stuffed mushrooms. Save room for the nutritious meal you’ve ordered and cut down on calories too.
And one more tip, if you want your food cooked a certain way to make it healthier, most of the time you can!
Don’t be afraid to put in a special request. Instead of my chicken fried, I sometimes ask for it to be grilled or roasted. Most places are willing to adapt their meals to suit your taste. It’s amazing how much power we have at diners that we never realize we can use.
So there you have it! Simple ways to make eating out healthier and enjoyable at the same time. Sticking to a healthy diet doesn’t mean you have to avoid dining out and say no to plans.
It’s all about making different choices, and enjoying the food we put in our mouths. Restrictions will only make it harder in the long-run, and make it more likely for you to sway off track.
Here’s to sticking to healthier choices!
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Dr. Tony Tanzi: Physical Therapist, Triathlete, Runner, Performance Coach