Eating out is one of America’s favorite pastimes. For people trying to stick to a diet or make smart dining decisions after weight loss surgery, however, navigating restaurants can be tricky.
Luckily, you don’t have to completely forego eating out in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. All you need is to be strategic about where, what and how often you eat out. Follow these smart and simple tips to eat out and eat healthy after weight loss surgery
Eat a light lunch
Are you planning on eating out for dinner? Many people try to compensate for a more indulgent dinner by skipping lunch. But the fact is, skipping lunch is a strategic disaster. By the time you take your seat for dinner, you’re ravenous. And ravenous people don’t make the best eating decisions. (Consider the bottomless bread basket.)
So instead of foregoing lunch, have something light. A salad with some chicken is a good bet. Then, in the afternoon, stave off hunger with a small snack, such as a handful of almonds.
Know before you go
Before you decide on a restaurant, read the menu and confirm that the restaurant has healthy options that adhere to your diet.
Nowadays, you can even find nutritional information on restaurant websites, including calorie, fat and carb counts. Read the menu carefully and thoroughly, and don’t go on menu item names alone. Just because a steak with Gorgonzola and pan-fried veggies is labeled as “lite” doesn’t mean it is.
Consult your weight loss surgeon or dietician regarding what foods you should avoid and what foods you should eat. Generally, you want a balance of lean proteins (fish, chicken), complex carbs (brown rice, whole wheat pasta) and monounsaturated fats (canola or olive oil).
Decide what you will order before you get to the restaurant, and stick to your decision.
Sit in a quiet area
This tip isn’t as obvious, but it’s important. Did you know that people who sit in more distracting areas of restaurants (such as by a window or in front of a TV) eat substantially more?
Noise makes it easier to lose track of how much you’re eating. So when you make your reservation, be sure to request a quiet table.
Don’t overdo the alcohol
As a rule of thumb, stick to one drink or one glass of wine with dinner. More drinks results in more calories — but not just calories from the drinks themselves.
Drinking alcohol before a meal also boosts short-term appetite and food consumption, according to a study at the University of Sussex. Alcohol may temporarily impair your body’s ability to feel full.
Send the bread or chips back
It’s tempting to dig into a bread basket or bowl of chips, but resist. Two or three pieces of bread and butter mean a couple hundred calories before you even place your order. A bowl of chips can contain 645 calories and 34 grams of fat.
Manners have their place, but it’s important to place your order first. Once you have decided on a healthy option, you don’t need to be tempted by your friend’s order of a burger and fries. Order first, and you won’t risk hearing the siren call of salty, fatty fried stuff.
Modify your order
Almost every restaurant will accommodate you if you want to modify your order. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about how the dish is prepared, what ingredients are used, and whether the restaurant can prepare a low-fat or low-calorie version of the dish.
Make special requests and ask about substitutions.
Be smart with salads
Salads aren’t always virtuous. Add heavy dressing, croutons, cheese or bacon, and you have a calorie-packed, fatty meal on par with regular entrees.
For instance, a house salad at Applebee’s is around 230 calories. Add dressing, and that calorie count more than doubles to 470 calories, close to the 12 oz. New York strip.
Looking for dressing? Request oil and vinegar on the side. That simple choice can save you up to 18 pounds per year.
Control your portions
It’s a cliché, but it’s true. Everything is bigger in Texas — especially the restaurant portions. Yes, Mom taught you to finish everything on your plate, but not when the plate is the size of a hubcap.
Leave about a third of your food on your plate. That step alone can help cut 300 calories off your meal. Best of all, you can take the remainder of the food home for another meal.
Eating out doesn’t mean saying goodbye to your diet. Be strategic, and you’ll enjoy your night out all the more for staying healthy.