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How To Make Healthy Restaurant Choices

Dining out is one of life’s simple pleasures. You get to sit in a different environment than your old run-of-the-mill kitchen, leisurely peruse the menu, and best of all you don’t have to do any preparation or dishes! While America is the land of the free and the home of the brave, we’re also the home of absurdly beefed up restaurant portions that contribute to America’s shocking obesity rate (2/3 of adults over the age of 30 are obese).  Even if your thighs trump Lance Armstrong’s or you have abs that would make a Victoria Secret Angel stomp all over her wings in envy, it is still important to exercise moderation, especially in restaurants.

  • Know what you are reading. Tricky words are meant for the SATs, not your local watering hole’s menu, right? Not exactly. Watch out for words like “creamy”, “crispy”, “smothered”, “stuffed”, “fried”, or “battered” since these are all methods of preparing foods that involve lots of fat and sodium AKA diet-busting villains. While you may be patting yourself on the back for ordering chicken and vegetables, if the menu reads, “fried chicken with battered green beans smothered in gravy”, you’re looking at an entrée well over 1,000 calories. Look for words like “grilled”, “baked”, “steamed”, “oven-fried” or “broiled” and you will save yourself plenty of calories without sacrificing any of the taste.
  • Order an appetizer. A bowl of soup or salad is your healthiest option, and for extra points order dressing on the side (some restaurants slather on three times as much dressing as a normal serving, setting you back hundreds of calories unbeknownst to you and your waistline).  Filling up on fiber-rich vegetables before your entree should help curb your appetite so you don’t down the whole thing. Another option would be to order two appetizers as your entree and ask the waiter to bring them out at the same time. Appetizers are often served in much healthier portions and are a good way to go when it comes time to order.
  • Drink up. Studies show that downing a cold glass of ice water not only jump-starts your body’s metabolic rate (it has to work harder to keep your body warm so you burn more calories), it also staves off hunger and keeps you from eating as much as you would without it. If water puts your taste buds to sleep as much as a piece of cardboard, ask for a wedge of lemon or lime.
  • Pick and choose. While the breadbasket and dessert menu are equally hard to resist, no one needs both. You can always ask your waiter to remove the breadbasket or not bring it out altogether. If you decide your sweet tooth is too hard to ignore, ask whoever you are with if they would like to split one with you. Sharing is caring (to your abs in this case), folks.
  • Save it for later. Just like no one needs the breadbasket AND dessert, a standard entree portion nowadays is enough to feed two people, sometimes three (helloooo Cheesecake Factory). Before you dig in, ask your server if they can bring you a takeout container and you can box away half your meal for leftovers. Or, like dessert, ask whomever you’re dining with if they would like to split something.

Written by Justin Farber

Justin Farber is a long time food-lover and longer time food-eater. The manly type, he often prepares and devours unnecessarily large feasts and washes them down with whiskey or a nice brew.