Tips for eating out without sabotaging your health

No one wants to be a spoilsport, but it can be tricky to watch the calories when you’re ordering from restaurants while on a lunch date. Below are some tips that you can keep in mind if you want to stick to your diet.

Why you have to count calories when eating out

When eating food from American, Chinese, or Italian restaurants in the U.S., you may be consuming at least 1,500 calories in a single meal. The total will be even higher after you add calories from your appetizers, drinks, or dessert.

According to a recent study, a whopping 92 percent of restaurant meals in the country will exceed the number of calories you need in one meal. This means many female diners who aren’t careful may consume at least twice the calories women need in an entire day, in one meal.

The average woman only needs to consume between 1,500 and 2,000 calories each day. Aside from calorie counts, when you’re eating out you also need to consider the quality of calories you’re getting.

Restaurant dishes tend to be chock-full of sugary sauces, sodium, or deep fried in unhealthy oil with trans fats. These foods are not always nutritious, and they may also cause health problems like cardiovascular disease, chronic inflammation, Type 2 diabetes, and weight gain. (Related: Five restaurant mistakes you should avoid.)

10 tips to keep in mind before ordering at a restaurant

If you keep these 10 tips in mind when you’re eating out, you can order healthy meals in restaurants without being forced to order just the starter salad.

  • Review the menu before your lunch date – Find out where you’re having lunch with your friends and check out the restaurant menu while you’re still at home. On the day of your lunch date, order a healthy meal choice so you can stick to a reasonable calorie count.
  • Ask about food preparation methods – Simply asking how a restaurant prepares meals can help reduce the calories that you’re going to consume.
  • Chew your food carefully – Practice eating mindfully by carefully chewing and enjoying each bite. When you’re in a rush, you may not feel as full even if you’ve already eaten enough.
  • Customize your burger order – Counting a bun and its various fixings, a burger ordered from a restaurant may have 1,000 to 1,500 calories. Cut out the calories by swapping the bun with some lettuce wraps. Ask for the sauces on the side, and use them sparingly.
  • Eat a healthy snack before leaving the house – Before you head to a restaurant, eat a healthy snack like a banana with some almond butter or a handful of nuts.
  • Eat a raw salad before consuming a heavy meal – If you’re going to eat a heavy meal, start with a raw starter salad. The enzymes in the raw vegetables can help stimulate digestion so it’ll be easier to digest and absorb the nutrients in your meal.
  • Get some extra olive oil for your burger – Most of the calories in a burger comes from the dressing. Even salads, which often have healthy fats, may also come with extra calories from salad dressings. Skip salad dressings and ask for a side of balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and some lemon wedges so you can make your own dressing. This healthier dressing alternative has antioxidants and essential nutrients like vitamins C and E.
  • Skip the calorie-laden drinks – Minimize your calorie intake at restaurants by saying no to various sugary drinks like alcohol and soda. You don’t have to order water with some lemon every time you eat out, though.
  • Take half of your meal home – You can prevent overeating by stopping when you feel like you’re 80 percent full. If you ask for half of your meal to be wrapped up, it’ll also be easier to control your calorie intake. You can also split a dish with a friend. Just don’t feel obligated to eat everything on your plate if you’re already full.
  • Trade the fries for grilled vegetables – If you’re getting a meal with a side of fries, ask for some steamed or grilled vegetables instead. When the restaurant is offering sweet potato fries, always ask if they’re serving their own hand-cut sweet potatoes.

Eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself of delicious food. You just have to be mindful of what you eat and you have to know how to modify your meals to make them as nutritious as possible.

You can learn more tips on how to order healthy meals at restaurants by visiting

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