We all know it is not easy to just stay committed to home-cooked meals; we are bound to order in on some days or dine out with friends and family on another. But have you ever thought about how healthy is it?
Usually, when you eat outside you make poor nutritional choices; fried food, carbonated drinks, high-calorie desserts. All of these have negative nutritional drawbacks that might not be as clear to you at first but can have a harmful impact on your health in the longer run.
While moderation is the key there are also other ways through which you can enjoy a good meal at a restaurant but still stay healthy. Nutrition Expert, Chandni Haldurai, helps us through it all.
5 tips on dining out healthily
1. Adopt the habit of mindful eating
This basically means paying attention to hunger and satiety cues, food triggers, and other factors such as:
We often eat distractedly in our daily lives and do not pay enough attention to the food we are consuming.
It is important to understand both hunger and satiety cues of your body. Hunger varies from person to person since it depends on various factors such as your current eating routine, the kind of day you’ve had - active or inactive, your mood, and more.
So, the question arises when should you eat and how much?
Learn to identify when you are actually hungry - Our body has a basic signalling mechanism where you’d start to feel low on energy or your stomach would grumble when you’re hungry. While we do not suggest waiting for this to happen before you consume a meal, we do suggest that you have a proper schedule as to how much food you intake and in what quantity.
Learn to identify when you are full - Just like you realize that you are hungry, your body also has certain cues that tell you if you’re full or stuffed. The ideal standard is to eat unless you feel satisfied and not sick that you feel like throwing up. Eat intuitively and know when to stop.
2. Avoid high-calorie food items
Who’s keeping a check on calories while you are out for dinner right, right? While we do not mean that you should be obsessive about counting calories for every food item you consume, you should have a general idea of the calories in your recent meals.
For starters, you can begin by avoiding the following foods or having them occasionally:
- Carb dense food - Consumption of carbohydrate-rich foods can cause long-term health problems by increasing inflammation in the gut. Maida or refined flour, pasta, pretzels, french fries, chips, bread, and doughnuts are some examples.
- Food items with high sugar content - Most desserts that you consume at restaurants have frighteningly high sugar content. If you think you cannot avoid that sugar craving, maybe try and share the dessert so you consume it in a lesser quantity.
- Fried foods - It is no news that every fried item that you consume is high in fats, salts, and calories. Restaurants usually use hydrogenated oils that are high in trans fats that increase your cholesterol levels making you prone to heart diseases. Moreover, fried foods do not offer any healthy nutrients.
3. Consume low-calorie food
While you should avoid high-calorie foods, it is also necessary to include food items that are low in calories but also help you stay full for longer. We suggest including the following:
- Whole grains - Whole grain eatables are lesser in calories and also take longer to break down which in return help in keeping you feeling fuller for longer. Include whole-grain bread, brown rice, and oatmeal in your meals while eating out.
- Yogurt - Unsweetened yogurt is healthier for your gut; a study shows that regular consumption of healthy meals like yogurt reduces the urge to consume less healthy items that are high in fat and/or sugar. You can find it in smoothies, smoothie bowls, granola parfaits and more.
- Fish - If you consume a meal that includes fish, you are bound to feel full for longer rather than opting for other meat.
- Eggs - Eggs are packed with vital nutrients and hence make up for a great option if you are going out for breakfast or any other meal.
- Popcorn - Going out for a movie? Snack on popcorn rather than eating that nacho plate. Popcorn has high fiber content with lesser calories and also promotes a feeling of fullness. Plain popcorn is preferred over buttered popcorn.
4. Learn to swap
If you want to eat outside and still stay healthy, instead of hogging on food items that are harmful to your health, why not opt for healthier options? Almost every food item that you love is sure to have a healthier alternative, you just have to figure out what it is.
Swap your refined and processed food items with healthier alternatives, swap sodas for lemon water, desserts for fruit bowls, Naan with whole wheat rotis and deep-fried starters with a salad. This would not only help you stay fit but would also keep you energetic throughout the day.
5. Learn the nutritional value of food
For every food item that you order at a restaurant, ensure you know its nutritional value i.e., you have an approx. idea of how much protein, carbs, fats, or sugar are you consuming. This helps you to plan your next meal in a way that does not feel like you are compromising on your day’s calorie count.
While there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself once in a while…
It's still important to eat mindfully to avoid any health problems that might come with eating unhealthy food. Just by making better dietary choices and proper portion control you can still eat outside and not beat yourself over it.
Eating healthier and learning to ignore unwanted cravings is a lifestyle change that would require determination and time so do not give up easily.