Two common places we eat away from home are restaurants and family or friends’ houses. Neither place do you have TOTAL control of what you are eating but there are certainly ways to make it easier to eat more healthfully.

Why is it so hard though? Self-discipline and self-control seem to fly out the window as soon as we walk in a restaurant or Mom’s house and smell those aromas. Then, you hear what is being offered….the fancy “specials” being offered and those pretty pictures on that menu, it seems pointless to even try to eat healthy.  BUT YOU REALLY CAN!

Things you cannot control:

  • Restaurant food is often very processed and contains EXTRA additives and preservatives to stay fresh until they can use it.
  • Restaurants cook with oils, butters and creams to tantalize our taste buds as much as possible…they want you to come back and rave about their food to others.
  • Moms and friends will serve what THEY like and what they cook best.
  • Moms and friends will also cook with ingredients that will make food taste “better”…again oils, butters,  and sauces that you probably would not choose when you are trying to “do better”.

Yet, there are still SO many things you CAN CONTROL and prepare yourself for a healthier meal away from home:

  • Have an idea of what you want to order BEFORE you look at the menu. They don’t pour all that money into those pictures for nothing.  Check out their website!
  • You WILL get more food than you need. Your protein should be the size of a deck of cards and your starch (rice, bread OR pasta…not all 3) should be the size of a small computer mouse.
  • Ask for a doggy bag before you get your meal and put ½ in before you start eating

 OR split your meal with someone at the table and save $$$!

  • Avoid the bread and butter that are often served before a meal. Sip on water or ask for raw vegetables and dip to nibble on.  Ask if they have whole-wheat rolls or bread. Or if bread is your thing, skip the starch on the side of your entrée and have a little bread. It is even a great substitute for dessert.
  • Ask your server how the food will be prepared prior to ordering. Make specific requests such as “no butter or oil” or “please serve the sauce on the side”.
  • Order an appetizer and a side salad instead of an entrée
  • Choose the smallest portion of meat available; loin, flank, and round are the leanest steak to choose from.  Substitute fruit, steamed vegetables (no butter), tossed salad with light dressing, and sweet potatoes (plain) for high-fat side items.
  • Always ask for sauces and dressings on the side so that you may control the amount of the empty calories you eat. Hollandaise, cheese, and cream sauces are the worst. Tomato and broth based sauces are better.
  • Try using vinegar (red wine, balsamic) or lemon juice to flavor salads and vegetables.
  • Try the food before you salt. You may be surprised how much flavor food has all by itself.  Smoked, cured, pickled and canned meats are all high in sodium. Also, sauces, seasonings and marinades that use soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, dried stock, and MSG are high in sodium.
  • When you start to wonder IF you are full, YOU ARE! Stop eating and ask the server to take your plate.
  • Think about what you are drinking! Soda and alcohol are empty calories and will add up fast if you are sitting and socializing during a meal!!
  • After eating the entrée, wait at least 10 minutes before choosing to order a dessert.
  • Split a light dessert with someone or choose fresh fruit and yogurt if available.

Try these suggestions and if you have any further questions or need of nutritional consulting, let me know.

Laura Wooten, Bodyshop Athletics, M.P.H, N.S.

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