By: Morgan Cherry, dietetic intern
Do you often struggle with eating healthy at restaurants? Or not really understanding how the food will be prepared, so you are not exactly sure if it will be healthier or not? There are so many options on menus now that it can be extremely hard and overwhelming to pick the healthier options. However, it is very important to stay healthy and consume a balanced meal even when eating out at restaurants. Learning some tips and tricks about healthy eating at restaurants can help make the process more enjoyable and less overwhelming.
If you are or know someone with vision loss, dim lighting in restaurants could make it extremely hard to read menus and understand what ingredients are in each menu item. A tip for this may be to use the flashlight function on your phone to better light up the menu. If you are eating out with a friend or family member, they could help you by reading the menu options to you out loud. Also remember that the waiters are there to serve you and would most likely be more than happy to read you menu items as well as point you in the direction of healthy choices.
If you are someone with limited dexterity, you may want to bring your own adapted utensils or consider how the food is prepared in order to enjoy your meal independently. Some foods that consider a lot of slicing (i.e. steak) may be best to avoid at the restaurant if you do not have access to assistive eating tools that will benefit the eating experience. Again, you can always ask the wait staff if the chef is able to modify the texture of the food. For instance, instead of a baked sweet potato, ask to see if mashed sweet potatoes are possible. That’s a healthy option, and you can still enjoy independently!
The following tips are to help you make healthier choices while at restaurants:
- Portion control: Restaurants are serving very large portions of food these days for each menu item. A healthy way to get around this is to split the meal in half. Take the rest home for leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch!
- Find out how the menu item is prepared: Ask the waiter how the menu items are prepared and if appropriate ask for menu items to be broiled, poached, grilled, baked, or steamed. Limit fried foods or foods that are breaded.
- Choose healthier sides or alternatives: Instead of white rice, choose the brown rice. Instead of fries as a side, choose a salad or vegetable. Choosing healthier side items from the meal is a great way to stay healthy while eating out.
- Choose your beverage carefully: Instead of ordering a soda or alcoholic beverage with your meal, try water, or a low-calorie or low-sugar drink. These could include fruit flavored sparkling water or flavored unsweetened teas.
Check out these other NCHPAD resources for more tips on eating healthy away from the home:
• Tips for Eating Out
• Tips for Eating Out: Low Carb
• Is It Possible? Healthier Choices When Eating Fast Food
• Healthy Eating Survival Kit