A 2013 study of 19 sit-down restaurants revealed that the average restaurant meal contained a jaw-dropping 1,128 calories—nearly the full recommended daily intake for an ideal weight management program of 1,100‒1,400 calories daily. However, by choosing clean menu options that are fresh, minimally processed, and free of artificial ingredients and preservatives, savvy diners can eat clean while still indulging in their favorite restaurants.
When eating out with weight management in mind, a mantra to follow is, “Eat light to stay light.” Sidestep tempting lasagnas and burgers for fresh salads, soups, and sandwiches brimming with nutritious toppings like leafy greens and sprouts. To spruce up your salads, replace cream-based dressings that are high in fat and sodium with oil-based dressings that trim the calories without compromising flavor.
Be Lean and Mean
While vegetarians may find it more straightforward to identify hearty-healthy restaurant menu options, omnivores can still trim the fat from their plates and eat clean by replacing fat-laden meats with lean cuts of chicken, turkey, fish, and other poultry and seafood that is grilled rather than fried. If you order steak, choose lean cuts like sirloin and filet and choose pan-reduced steak sauces over rich sauces like bearnaise.
Make a Sweet Deal
While you may revel in your morning blended coffee, keep in mind that many coffee chains still use artificial flavors and sweeteners like High Fructose Corn Syrup in their drinks. Get back to basics with brewed coffees that are both antioxidant-rich and low in sugar. If you cannot refrain from adding sugar to your beverage, scale back on the number of sugars used or partially replace the sugar with a natural flavor enhancer like cinnamon.
Learn the Secret Ingredients
Lurking preservatives, trans-fats, and other artificial and processed ingredients can fool even the most health-conscious diners at restaurants. Even menu options conventionally deemed to be healthy—such as deli turkey—may contain nitrites and nitrates. Ask for the nutrition information of a meal if it is not readily advertised at the restaurant or online. If nutritious options are available, search for wholesome, minimally-processed foods that are free of trans fats, preservatives, and other artificial ingredients.
Take It with a Grain of Salt
With the 2013 study revealing that the average restaurant meal delivered 151% of the recommended daily intake of sodium, diners should be wary of the salt content even in lighter restaurant fare. Fortunately, many restaurants today offer recommendations for low-sodium menu options. If none are available, lower your sodium intake by replacing sauces and condiments like pickles with flavorful vegetable garnishes like fresh jalapeno peppers that pack the same flavor profile.
While large portions at restaurants allow diners to loosen your financial belt, they also leave your waistband feeling tighter. Diners with weight management goals can stay on track by eating a fraction of the meal at the restaurant and saving the rest for the later. If you feel that you are prone to overeat at restaurants, eat a light, nutritious snack at home to curb your appetite before eating out.
Be a Globetrotter
Global cuisine not only offers a window into other cultures and lifestyles, but an opportunity to expand your culinary horizons without expanding your waistline. International cuisine such as Japanese and Middle Eastern cuisine is heavily plant-based and nutritious. Choosing these options can help you adapt your taste buds to new flavors that you can incorporate in your own daily diet.
When you grow weary of your culinary travels, bistroMD can ease your jet lag and ensure that you eat clean by offering nutritious, palate-pleasing, restaurant-quality meals, from Four-Cheese Ravioli to Grilled Salmon with Lemon Dijon Dressing, all in the comfort of your own home.