We’ve all done it: “saved up” our calories or eaten lightly all day in preparation of a delicious dinner out at a restaurant. But according to experts in the nutrition field, that isn’t the smartest choice.
“Our ability to make healthy choices goes out the window when we let ourselves get too hungry,” says Brittany Diehl, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at the St. Elizabeth Physicians Weight Management Center. “This can be detrimental to your health and diet – it leads you to overeat to make up for the lack of calories and nutrition throughout the day.”
Another common mistake while eating at a restaurant is assuming that a salad is the healthiest option on the menu. Spoiler alert: some of the most popular restaurant salads contain over 1000 calories. Watch out for salad add-ons such as cheese, dressing, candied nuts and crispy toppings. These additions can add in hundreds of extra calories, as well as sugar, carbs and fat, taking your salad from healthy to unhealthy in a hurry.
Tips and tricks for eating healthy at a restaurant
When you’re going out to a restaurant, it’s essential to have a plan and be prepared. Brittany’s top tips for eating out include:
- Do your homework: most popular restaurants post their menu and nutritional information online. Review the information at home earlier in the day and plan out what you’ll order. This can help you avoid temptation once you are at the restaurant.
- Pick somewhere smart: Websites like Healthy Dining Finder offer “dietitian-approved” healthy dining items at a variety of restaurants nationwide. Nutritional information is included, as are tips and suggestions for cutting back the calories on certain dishes. The My Fitness Pal app and website also have a large database of restaurant nutritional information.
- Pass on the bread: we all love that fresh, piping hot bread that restaurants serve – but it’s full of excess carbohydrates and calories. Pass on the bread or consider asking the waiter to not even bring it to the table.
- Skip the heavy stuff: avoid entrees with creamy sauces, toppings and ingredients that you can’t control. Ask for cheese and salad dressing on the side. And avoid the fries – ask for a serving of vegetables instead.
- Keep it simple: Skip menu items that are breaded, fried, battered, crusted, au gratin or sautéed. Instead, order menu items that are steamed, grilled, broiled, baked or roasted.
- Watch your portion size: consider splitting a meal with a friend or requesting a half-size portion. You can also have the waiter bring a to-go box with your meal or ask to have the kitchen box up half of your meal before it comes to the table.
How can a dietitian help?
There is such a wide array of nutritional information on the web, but it can be difficult to decipher what is evidence-based and what is not. While in general people know what foods are considered “healthy” and “unhealthy,” having good eating habits is all about balance.
“Dietitians are trained professionals who can help you with a variety of goals,” says Brittany. “Whether you’d like to focus on weight loss, weight gain, or just incorporating healthier, nutrient-dense foods into your day – a dietitian can help you make these changes. We make an individualized plan for your goals and help you stick to it.”
The St. Elizabeth Weight Management Center has two locations: Ft. Thomas and Florence. If you are looking for weight-loss help, you can make an appointment with one of our weight management specialists by calling (859) 212-4625.