**As I am just about to hop on a plane to head over to Cairns, Australia (Hello! Great Barrier Reef), Megan has a great guest post for you today. Megan is a badass marathoner and has been a true inspiration during my first marathon training. Please welcome Megan to Chasing Raspberries! **
Hello, Chasing Raspberries readers! My name is Megan, and I blog over at The Lyons’ Share. I am so grateful to Jillienne for giving me the opportunity to share with you today! Jillienne always makes me smile – whether she’s showing off her new moves in the gym on Instagram, or telling us about how she’s dominating her marathon training runs, her enthusiasm for health and fitness is so motivating!
Today, I’m going to share my best tips for staying healthy while eating in restaurants. Before I recently quit my job to focus on health coaching full time, I used to travel four days per week every single week … which meant I would eat at least 12 meals per week in restaurants! I’m sure you’ve heard that it’s healthier to eat home-cooked meals, but did you know that the average restaurant meal contains 2-3 times the calories an average adult “should” consume at each meal, according to JAMA Internal Medicine? I’m all about treating yourself when you want to and not being overly calorie-conscious, but if you’re trying to eat as healthily as possible, those 1,327 calories per meal can really add up and surprise you. (And remember … that was just average; there are some restaurant meals that top 3,000 calories!)
So, if you’re trying to eat as healthy as possible, but still enjoy your restaurant meal, here are my top 4 tips:
- Follow The Lyons’ Share BDD Rule for eating out. When I’m going to a restaurant, I make a conscious choice before eating about whether or not I’m going to enjoy three things: bread, drink, and dessert. If it’s just a regular meal, I’ll only choose one. If it’s a special occasion, I’ll choose two. And if it’s a very special occasion, like an anniversary or a wedding, I’ll choose all three! Thinking of my options as what I get to enjoy (rather than what I have to restrict) makes it a much more pleasurable experience – and I still get to enjoy whatever I’m craving!
- Make healthy modifications to your order. I believe in ordering what really sounds good to you, but also in making some modifications to make the dish as healthy as possible. So, choose a green vegetable side dish instead of the mashed potatoes and gravy, or opt for a whole grain instead of the french fries. In the pictures below, I was eating at a “hole-in-the-wall” Mexican restaurant, where it might seem virtually impossible to be healthy. But I did it! I went for the green salad, but passed on the cheese, chose not to eat the tortilla shell bowl, added healthy fat from avocado, and opted for salsa instead of the creamy dressing offered with the salad. I also enjoyed tortilla soup, but removed most of the tortilla chips and cheese topping – and it was still mouthwateringly delicious!
- Make appetizers your friend, not your enemy. Appetizers can be a great way to sample many things from the menu of a special restaurant, or to tame your raging hunger before your main meal arrives, but they can often be even more calorically-dense (and nutrient-poor!) than the entrees themselves. So, I recommend passing on the Bloomin’ Onion or the cheese fries, and instead going for something with fresh, seasonal vegetables – the more color, the better! If I want to sample multiple dishes but am not overly hungry, I’ll often choose two appetizers as my entire meal, rather than an appetizer course and an entree course. (picture source)
- Request your meal to be prepared “dry” or with minimal oil. Have you ever tried to order something super-healthy, like a grilled salmon, a side of vegetables, or an egg white and vegetable omelet, and then have your meal come out of the kitchen swimming in a pool of butter or grease? (picture sources – 1, 2, 3)
I love olive oil and think that healthy fats are essential, but the several tablespoons that restaurants often use can be overkill. Most of the time, restaurants are using partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil or other less-healthy oils, since they’re cheaper, and so I’d rather not load up. For this reason, I often choose to ask for my meal to be prepared “dry” (without oil) or with minimal oil.
So there you have it! I hope these tips help you enjoy your restaurant meals, while still sticking to your health goals. Thanks again to Jillienne for letting me share here today!
So tell me in the comments … How often do you eat at restaurants? What is your favorite healthy tip for dining at restaurants?