According to Statistics Canada, Canadians make 22 million visits to restaurants every single day. Eating out is a nice treat and a convenient option when you don't have time or want to cook, but the fat, calories, sugar, and sodium can add up quickly if you eat out regularly. Here are ten healthy eating out options and considerations 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 that you don’t need. See if there is another option on the menu that tickles your fancy, rather than gets you more bang for your buck.
Consider The Preparation
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".
Pay Attention To Salt
Watch the amount of sodium that you eat by choosing fewer foods that have been smoked or made with soy or teriyaki sauces. Look for light versions of these sauces or ask for them to be served on the side. Definitely avoid the table salt, as the chef most likely already added some while cooking.
Think Vegetables First
You can't go wrong ordering an extra side salad or vegetable dish. Substitute your fries with a side salad, mashed potatoes with roasted vegetables, or pork dumplings with veggie ones. Be conscious of the amount of salad dressing, oil, and butter the veggies come in or with — try and limit those.
Look For Fibre
Many restaurants offer whole wheat or whole grain buns, tortilla wraps, pasta, or pizza crust upon request. The fibre in these options will help you feel full on your night out without overeating.
Watch What You Drink
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. Drinks have calories too and they add up remarkably quickly, so be conscious of what you’re drinking.
Enjoy Your Company
Remember that eating out is usually a social activity with food to enjoy. Focus on the conversations at the table and having a good time with your chosen company, rather than just the food.
Explore The Menu
Look for the restaurant's menu symbols denoting lighter or vegan options. Vegan dishes typically contain more fibre and fewer calories. If you’re unsure of a symbol's meaning, ask your server for clarification. These menu “maps” can really help you make healthier choices while dining out.
Review the restaurant's website ahead of time to look for the healthiest options. You can also call and ask for the nutrition information of menu choices, or ask your server upon arrival. Wait staff can be a great source of information and recommendations for your meal selection.
Healthy Eating Out Options 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, skip the side. Control the amount of sugar-packed condiments used; mustard is a great saucy option.
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, lettuce, and other veggies.
Ask for whole wheat or whole grain crust and load up on veggie toppings! Also check to see if a “thin” crust is an option, as you’ll want to consume more toppings than dough. Light on the cheese is also a valid request.
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). A greek salad at a greek restaurant is also, usually, a good idea.
Enjoy the selection of Tandoori meats, curries, lentils, and chickpea-based dishes. Take note of your portion size though, since some items may be made to share. Also keep an eye out for creamy sauces, as they are calorie packed.
Have pasta served in a tomato-based or rosé sauce instead of a creamy Alfredo sauce. Choose grilled, poached, or baked fish, or grilled chicken and 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 on rice paper instead of a deep-fried one. Chicken, beef, or pork satays are a good choice, as well as dishes accompanied by steamed jasmine rice.
Healthy eating out options while you’re on the go or dining in restaurants can be hard to find – but they are there! Since dining out is such a big part of Canadians’ lives, knowing how to ask for or identify those healthier alternatives is important. And, if you happen to overindulge at a meal, then plan on choosing some healthier choices over the next few days to bounce back onto your plan.
We hope these healthy eating out options and considerations were helpful!