Let’s be honest–we’ve all done it. Okay, some of us more than others, but I’m sure at some point you and your family have been seated in a restaurant and end up feasting on meals that look nothing like the nutritious versions you prepare at home. For some reason the moment we open that menu all common sense goes out the window, doesn’t it? A typical dinner of baked chicken breast, roasted sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli at home morphs into a fried chicken concoction covered in melted cheese, mashed potatoes drowning in gravy and a few buttered dinner rolls. It’s no wonder you spend the rest of the evening feeling like you’re about to burst! In all fairness, many restaurant menus are set up so that it’s easy to make poor nutrition choices, but with a little determination you can turn your dining out experience into a healthy one.
Skip the Entree
More often than not, I opt to go with two smaller first course choices and completely skip ordering a full entree. For example, you can order a garden salad as a first course and then a hearty bowl of soup–something like minestrone is both filling and packed with healthy ingredients.
Supersize Your Salad
Even if it’s not listed on the menu, most restaurants will provide an entree portion of a first course salad option. I like to order salads that have a variety of veggies and then add some protein like grilled chicken or shrimp. Add a piece of whole grain bread and you’ve hit all your food groups.
Check Out the Side Options
I’m a huge fan of "sides" on restaurant menus. In fact, many times I will order a garden salad and then get two veggie sides for my entree. Grilled asparagus, baked sweet potato or sauteed spinach are delicious and guilt free.
It’s Okay to Order Dessert
You don’t have to skip dessert–just try to cut your portion size and check out the healthier options. Many places have seasonal fruit (the BEST choice!) and fruit sorbets are another good pick. My husband and I will order a slice of plain cheesecake topped with fresh strawberries and share it. It’s a treat without going overboard.
Give these ideas and additional ones we have on our web site a try the next time you head out to eat. You might even find your dining experience is more enjoyable when you feel much more comfortable after eating.