I know there are many articles providing advice on healthy choices when dining out, but I thought it was important to share my favourite tips for healthier dining out with you! If you are like most of my clients dining out is one of life’s little pleasures. In fact, according to the most current available stats from the Canadian Restaurant and Food Services Association (2010), Canadians make a staggering 17 million restaurant visits per day, and restaurant meals account for 1 out of every 10 meals.  This may sound like a high number, but if we think about our daily routines we may realize that we stop for a coffee on our way to work, go out for dinner to celebrate an occasion, or grab lunch with friends or co-workers. Restaurant meals may be a part of your usual routine, but be aware they are almost always higher in fat, salt, sugar, and calories, than homemade meals.  With super-sized fast food options, all you can eat buffets and sushi bars, restaurant dining can quickly add up to a health and weight management dilemma.  With these simple tips, you can avoid the excess and still savour the enjoyment of dining out.  Read on to become restaurant savvy.

Rules to order by:

  • Know as much as possible about the food you are ordering.
  • Ask your server questions about how your entrée will be prepared. Knowing how your food is made (with butter, coated in breading or topped with cream sauce, sour cream or mountains of cheese) can mean a substitution can be made.
  • Trade fries for a tossed salad, broth based soup, or plain baked potato or rice.
  • Order dressings, sauces, and gravies on the side.
  • Opt for a cup of broth soup instead of a bowl size serving of cream soup.
  • Undress your salad.IMG_1620IMG_1584
  • Ask for fresh lemon juice, or balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of oil to flavour your greens.  Skip the croutons and opt for a grating of a flavourful cheese such as parmesan or feta. A small amount goes a long way in flavour.
  • Choose salads made from darker greens like spinach or romaine, instead of less nutritious iceberg lettuce.
  • Add legumes, lean grilled chicken, or fish to make your salad your main meal.13563466_10153540294261714_812864308_nIMG_1621
  • Look for the words baked, poached, grilled, stir-fried, roasted, sautéed or steamed, instead of basted, breaded, buttered, creamed or deep-fried.
  • Split your portion to take home half for later, or share your meal with your dining companion.
  • Take time to savour your meal. Chewing slowly allows time for your brain to signal fullness and prevents over-eating
  • Drink plenty of water. Quenching your thirst fills you up calorie free.IMG_1615
  • Go on-line and explore the restaurant’s website ahead of time and peruse healthier options in advance.
  • Boost your fibre intake by opting for whole wheat or whole grain buns, tortilla wraps, pasta or pizza crust.
  • Can’t resist dessert? Try a scoop of sherbet, gelato, or sorbet.  Other great options include fresh cut fruits, berries, or a fruit crisp.  If you can’t pass-up a decadent dessert like cake, or pie, take a few bites and pass it on to your dining companions to finish the rest. OT 2015 365

Buffets can be over-indulgence pit-falls:

Buffets can tempt you to over eat because you feel compelled to get your money’s worth.  If you do choose occasional buffet dining, use these suggestions to safe-guard your intake.

  • Think of the buffet table as a menu. Scan it before filling your plate and only choose items you know you will enjoy.  Do not feel compelled to try some of everything, just because it is there.
  • Load–up on fresh vegetable sticks, fruits, and green leafy salads. Use smaller portions (think one thumb tip) of creamy dips and dressings.
  • Seek out baked or broiled meat, fish or poultry, and steamed vegetables.
  • Use your hands to gauge your portions. Use your palm to measure a healthy serving of protein (chicken breast or lean steak), two open hands for your vegetables, a fist size serving for your grains or starch (your potato, serving of pasta or rice).
  • Limit yourself to only one trip to the buffet. If feeling the need to re-load your plate, wait at least 20 minutes to be sure you are actually still hungry before going back for more.

Dining out should be a treat, and there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself a few times a month. If you are dining out frequently, consider setting a nutrition goal to limit your restaurant dining to not more than once a week. The rest of the time prepare your meals at home and ensure they are healthy.