While eating out once in a while can be a great treat for you and your family, it doesn't necessarily need to be a guilty pleasure, or a break from your normally healthy diet. Just by paying attention to what you order, you can ensure that your next restaurant dining experience, whether it's at a fast-food chain or a sit-down restaurant won't be a burden to your body.
The most important thing is to see what your options are:
- Avoid Sugary Drinks
One very easy way to lower your calorie intake is by being careful about what you drink. Instead of going for the soda, why not a glass of water instead? It helps to cleanse the palate, thus making your food tastier, and drinking plenty of water helps to send the message to your brain that your stomach is full, which helps you to eat less. Also, consider low-fat or fat-free milk for your children, and if you simply must have that soda, go for the diet option! Finally, beware of what you're getting when you order juice; while it might seem like a healthy option, many fruit juices out there today are little better than fruit syrups. When in doubt, go with the water option.
- Go Whole-Wheat
Whether it's for your breakfast toast, your lunchtime sandwich, or the complimentary dinner bread, whole-wheat is the clear choice for the health-conscious consumer. White bread is made from refined flour, which loses fibers, vitamins, and minerals in the manufacturing process. Whole-wheat bread retains these essentials, and also acts as a powerful laxative to prevent constipation. Studies have also shown that consumers of whole-wheat bread weigh less on average, and enjoy reduced risks of heart disease, stroke, and hypertension.
- Pick the Salad
Salad is also a great source of fiber, and contains plenty of antioxidants which help the body deal with harmful free-radicals. The fruit and vegetable content is also very high in vitamins and minerals, while providing many other benefits in addition. Vegetables play a role in reducing the risk of cancer, heart attack, and stroke, especially tomatoes, carrots, and bell peppers. One thing to keep in mind though: take it easy on the dressing. Salad dressings often contain high levels of fat and preservatives, such MSG, and hydrogenated oils, which contribute to the formation of unhealthy trans-fats. These additives can easily neutralize the health-benefits of picking that salad over a soup or a side of french fries, so order your dressing on the side if you can.
- Fish for Your Protein
Fish is a healthy alternative to beef or pork as a source of protein and as a tasty entree. It has a much, much lower fat content, while being high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help lower the rsik of heart disease by boosting your levels of HDLs (the good cholesterol) and by reducing inflammation. Oily fish are also rich in vitamin A and vitamin D.
- Order What You Want
When placing your order, don't be afraid to be as assertive as it takes to get the healthy meal you want. For example, see if you can get a smaller portion instead of eating that plate-sized steak. If a meal comes with a side of mashed potatoes drenched in gravy, ask instead if they have a salad option. Ask about the way your food is being prepared, and if it's possible to change it; get your salmon filet grilled instead of fried, wrap that burger in lettuce instead of white bread. It does not hurt to ask, so get the most for your buck!
Andrew Tran is a professional blogger that writes on a variety of topics including restaurants in San Francisco. He writes for Restaurants.com, a leading directory of restaurants.