According to Restaurants Canada, Canadians make 22 million visits to restaurants every single day1. Eating out is a nice treat and a convenient option when you don't have time to cook, but the fat, calories, sugar and sodium can add up quickly if you eat out regularly. Here are ten dining out tips for weight loss to help you make the best choices at your next restaurant meal.
- Keep it small. Portion sizes at fast food counters and casual dining restaurants are usually bigger than what you would eat at home. Share a large meal with a friend or ask to take some home as leftovers.
- Pick nutrition over value. Combo specials are usually a good deal, however they often come with sides packed with extra fat, calories, sugar and sodium.
- Preparation method is key. Order foods that have been steamed, baked, broiled, grilled, stir-fried or roasted. Hidden fat and calories add up quickly when food is pan-fried, deep-fried, breaded or served with virtually any kind of sauce or gravy. Avoid the terms "scalloped", "dipped" and "crispy".
- Watch the amount of sodium that you eat by choosing fewer foods that have been smoked or made with soy or teriyaki sauce. Look for light versions of these sauces or ask for them to be served on the side.
- Go full steam ahead with vegetables. You can't go wrong ordering an extra side salad (watch for dressings) or vegetable dish. Substitute your fries with vegetables. Hold the mayo and go easy on the amount of salad dressing, oil and butter.
- Look for ways to boost your fibre intake. Many restaurants offer whole wheat or whole grain buns, tortilla wraps, pasta or pizza crust upon request.
- Drink water, low-fat milk or soda with a "splash" of cranberry instead of soft drinks. If you drink alcohol, limit it to one or two drinks for the day.
- Remember that healthy eating is about balance and enjoying your food. If you happened to overindulge at a meal, then plan on choosing some healthier choices over the next few days.
- Ask for the nutrition information of menu choices or review the restaurant's website ahead of time to look for the healthiest options.
- Look for the restaurant's menu symbols denoting lighter or vegan options. Vegan dishes typically contain more fibre and fewer calories.
What to Order
Go for a regular sized coffee, cappuccino, tea or latté instead of the large or venti. Ask for drinks to be made with low fat milk and skip the whipped cream.
Try a grilled chicken sandwich or check out the kid's menu. Share your french fries or better yet, try a baked potato. Control the amount of sugar-packed condiments used.
Choose lean deli meat like ham, turkey, chicken or roast beef. For added fibre and nutrition, ask for the sandwich to be made on whole wheat or whole rye bread, and pile on the peppers, tomatoes and lettuce.
Ask for whole wheat or whole grain crust and load up on veggie toppings!
Avoid deep-fried items like sweet and sour pork or breaded lemon chicken. Give steamed fish, stir-fried dishes with rice, and those exotic Chinese greens a try.
Dip into some tzatziki sauce and souvlaki rather than a plate of high fat saganaki (fried cheese) or spanakopita (spinach pie in phyllo pastry).
Enjoy the selection of Tandoori meats, curries, lentil and chickpea based dishes. Take note of your portion size though, since some items may be made in creamy sauces.
Have pasta served in a tomato-based or rosé sauce instead of a creamy Alfredo sauce. Choose grilled, poached or baked fish, grilled chicken or veal.
Go easy on the deep fried shrimp or vegetable tempura. Sushi, cucumber salad, udon noodles, soba (buckwheat) noodles, and sukiyaki (beef, vegetables, tofu and noodle simmered in a pot) are healthier alternatives.
Try a cold spring roll in rice paper instead of a deep-fried one. Chicken, beef or pork satays are a good choice, as well as dishes accompanied with steamed jasmine rice.
Eating on the go and dining in restaurants are a big part of Canadians' lives. We hope these dining out tips for weight loss give you a sense of freedom and confidence to dine and socialize at your favourite spots while still helping you stay on track with your health goals.1 Restaurants Canada - Canada's Restaurant Industry Study, June 2018