How to Stay “On Track” When Going Out to Restaurants

The food we consume has a strong impact on our health and wellness. Our goal is to maintain a diet that is sustainable, enhances our physical performance, and strengthens our immunity. Restaurants, on the other hand, have another goal in mind. Their main objective is for you to enjoy their food so you continue to come back for more. Majority of restaurants utilize the 3 major tastes to enhance the pleasure feeling we experience when consuming their menu items. 

  1. Sweet
  2. Salty 
  3. Savory 

The combination of these three sensations releases dopamine, a hormone that provides the body with pleasure. Restaurants use an excessive amount of salt, sugar and butter in their meals to make them more enjoyable for the consumer. Studies have shown that a diet high in these three ingredients is associated with developing a chronic disease.

How Much Have Food Portions Increased?

Calories at Restaurants

Restaurants also have the tendency to serve portion sizes much larger than what you would normally serve yourself. The large portion sizes plus the high calorie ingredients can easily allow someone to overeat. The Affordable Care Act mandated that restaurants begin to include the calorie count of the food items on the menu. This is a great step in the right direction. Consumers were now able to see how many calories were in their favorite food items. People were now more hesitant to order a menu item that displayed a calorie count greater than 1,000 calories. This resulted in restaurants intentionally reducing portions (approximately 25%) to make the total calorie count more reasonable for consumers.

Tips to Stay “On Track” When Going Out to Restaurants

Tip 1: Be Prepared What to Order Before Walking in.

When you go to a restaurant, there are temptations all around you that might influence your decision about what to order. For example, the smell of French-fries from the other table might influence you to also order french-fries. By looking up the menu before entering, you can predetermine what you want to order without the temptation of ordering something that is less nutrient dense.

Tip 2: Ask For a “TO GO” Container When the food is Delivered.

This might sound a bit silly, but it definitely helps with portion control. As stated before, the portion sizes at restaurants are typically larger than what we would normally serve ourselves. By asking for a “to go” container before eating your meal, you are able to reduce the quantity by half. This eliminates the pressure of finishing the entire plate and experiencing that unconformable fullness feeling. Plus, you are able to enjoy the other half of that meal for a later time.

Tip 3. Ask For Nutrient Dense Side Options.

For many restaurants, French-fries is a common side for an entrée. Fries are high in saturated fat and calories. Typically, restaurants offer different sides that are available to you free of cost. By asking the server “is there anything else I can substitute the fries with” you could potentially get a side salad or steamed vegetables! And don’t forget, the more veggies the better.

Tip 4: Order Water.

Restaurants always try to upsell by suggesting fancy drinks and beverages that are usually full of added sugar or high fructose corn syrup which can elevate blood sugar levels. We don’t want this to happen. By choosing water, you are not spoiling your appetite and you are eliminating those unnecessary calories coming from sugar. Also, by only ordering water, you are eliminating the beverage cost so your bill will be cheaper saving you more money.

Tip 5: Avoid Fried Foods.

The style of cooking method can also determine the health quality of the food. Baking, pan frying, and roasting are all great cooking choices. Deep fat frying, on the other hand, destroys all the micronutrients and provides additional saturated fat. For example, a common appetizer found in restaurants are deep fried green beans. I know they taste delicious, but once the green beans are saturated in oil, the majority of the essential nutrients are destroyed. Instead, look to see if they have a veggie tray with hummus. This would be a better alternative.

So next time you go out to eat, just remember these 5 tips and you can continue to stay on track with your health and fitness goals.

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