Farmington, CT (July 21, 2017) – It never fails. You’ve been doing your meal prep, filling up at least half your plate with fruit and veggies  and then your friend invites you out to dinner. You want to catch up and spend time with your friend, but doing so may derail your healthy eating goals. What do you do? With these easy tips, you can pencil your friend in without offsetting your healthy eating goals.
Take the guess work out of ordering by conducting behind the scenes prep-work before heading out for the night. Planning ahead can help you make better and more informed meal choices.
Check out the menu before you go:
Don’t get hypnotized by the fried and buttery options that are pictured on the menu! Deciding what you’ll order ahead of time will make it easier to stick to your game plan. Many restaurants provide healthier menu options and some even provide the nutritional information for each offering online. While deciding which new restaurant to check out, look for one that offers a wide variety of options that are lower in fat, calories, sugars, and sodium. This prep work will allow you to order confidently and be ready to request healthier substitutions if needed. For example, french fries can be substituted with a simple side salad or cup of fresh fruit.
Snack at home:
That pesky complimentary bread and butter or chips and salsa waiting on the table is always quite the temptress. Just because it’s complimentary, doesn’t mean it’s free from empty calories that you didn’t even ask for. To make sure you enjoy the meal you order, eat a healthy snack—like an apple or a handful of unsalted almonds—at home to hold you over. If you’re hungry and don’t have time for a snack, order a small salad or a small cup of brothy soup to avoid the chips or bread basket pitfall. Or, tell your server to take the bread away to avoid the temptation that comes when it’s sitting right in front of you!
Order Like a Pro
It can be intimidating to customize or be particular about your meal because no one wants to be that picky person. But this is your meal! Make it work for you. And there’s no doubt that it’s nothing your server hasn’t heard before.
Well-balanced meals are not the stuff of fiction! When ordering, make your meal as balanced as possible by including healthy options from a variety of the different food groups. This assortment can include lean meats, fish, turkey or chicken, healthy fats like avocados and olive oil, low-fat dairy, and fruits and veggies.
Subtract the addition:
Often times, the food itself isn’t the calorie culprit—it is the additions on top or how it is prepared. For example, a salad may seem like the healthy option but you have to watch what is added on top and the dressing that is used. Some restaurants add croutons, cheese, fried proteins and more to their salads, turning a healthy option into a decadent meal. To avoid this “false advertising”, ask for dressing on the side so you can moderate the amount added and ask for less of the calorie dense toppings and more veggies or nuts and seeds.
Rethink your drink:
Don’t pour on the pounds. It could be sneaky liquid calories like soda, sugary specialty coffee, wine, beer and other alcoholic beverages that are adding up. People often forget to count liquid calories and often consume more drinks while dining out, especially with friends. Frozen margaritas range in calories, but can reach up to over 600 calories per drink! To be safe, stick to ordering water, hot tea, club soda with lime, or black coffee. If celebrations are in order, try to order just one.
Be a keyword sleuth:
Some foods can be healthy until they are prepared a way that changes the nutritional value. Look for preparation keywords like stir fried, steamed, poached, baked, sautéed, grilled, and broiled. Of course you need to be aware of any additions they may make, like adding sneaky butter or cream sauce! Ask for those on the side. Steer clear of food preparation key words such as battered, fried, breaded, smothered, in cream sauce, and in butter sauce. Although these options may be tasty, they add significantly to the calorie count. Other sneaky sauces like au jus and soy sauce can also mean it’s loaded with extra sodium.
Slow Down and Enjoy
Focus more on catching up with friends than finishing your entire meal. By slowing down while eating and splitting your meal in half, you can save money and calories!
Pump the brakes:
The days of trying to clean your plate before your siblings are over! Slow it down. It seems that our brains are using snail mail rather than instant message. It can take about 20 minutes for your stomach to get the notification from your brain that you aren’t hungry anymore and that it’s time to put the fork down. Try to eat slower and take time to enjoy your meal; you may eat less and still be satisfied.
Save your plate and your bank:
Restaurant portions are growing larger and larger each day. Many times, the portions are enough for two or three people! Avoid the temptation to overeat by asking for a to-go box at the beginning of the meal and putting half or more away for later. Can you say two for one meal? You can avoid the bloat and help your bank account by implementing this tip. Another option to save some calories and “dough” is to order a healthy appetizer or a kid’s portion as your meal. If you are still hungry after eating this portion, you can add on another healthy appetizer or side salad with a light dressing like olive oil with red wine vinegar or a spritz of citrus.
Christina Rehbein, MBA – Marketing and Communications Specialist, Envolve PeopleCare
Christina holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Texas State University and a Bachelor’s of Business Administration in marketing and management from Baylor University. She has over six years of marketing experience with more than four of those years dedicated to the healthcare industry. Christina is actively involved in Strong Youth Strong Communities, Centene and Envolve’s community outreach partnership with the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and supports the Austin chapter of NAMI. Her passion for marketing has led her to pursue teaching advertising as an adjunct professor for a local university in her spare time.
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According to the USDA dietary guidelines, an adult consuming 2,000 calories per day should be eating 2 1/2 cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit per day.