Keeping it Healthy When Eating Out

By: Dr. Alyssa Musgrove

Eating out is both a fun event and a social event, and an important part of life in the Lake Country. Many studies, however, have shown there is a significant link between dining out, overeating and poor food choices. So how do you eat out and still stay on track with your health goals? Here are a few tips to making better choices when dining out that won’t require you to give up your social life or turn down those dinner invitations. 

Substitute for success. Healthier options are always available, but you will likely have to swap out the unhealthy menu pairings that can ruin a great dish. Create your own meal around protein and vegetables. Scan the menu and then get creative; mix and match to make your own meal. Substitute extra vegetables instead of the pasta that comes with the fish or a side salad instead of french fries. When ordering an omelet ask for extra protein or vegetables instead of the toast. If ordering a sandwich or burger, ask for more of a “protein style,” such as a lettuce wrap or bed of lettuce instead of a bun.

Pay attention to preparation. Inquire about how the food is cooked and prepared. The way the food is cooked can make quite a difference in the amount of calories and nutrients it contains. Foods that have been grilled, roasted, poached or steamed are generally healthier options because these cooking processes require less oil and fat, and do not kill all the nutrients. Foods that are crispy, crunchy, fried, pan-fried, battered or sautéed in oil or sauce usually contain more calories, harmful ingredients and decrease the overall nutrient value. Instead of a fried vegetable, ask to have it grilled, steamed or roasted. Or, order your vegetable without the melted cheese or sauce that comes on top. 

Be the first to order. In social situations, people tend to subconsciously mimic each other, and dining out is no exception. Other people can influence our decisions and eating behaviors without us noticing, so go ahead and lead by example. If you are at a table with a group that is likely to order something that does not align with your healthy lifestyle choices, make sure you order first!

Order two appetizers instead of a main meal. Research has proven that people are more likely to overeat when they are served larger portions. When you know you are going to a restaurant where the portions are huge, try ordering two appetizers or an appetizer and a side, instead of a main course that you might tempted to finish. This trick can help you fill up without leaving you uncomfortably full, wasting food or going overboard on calories.

Move it to the side. Ask for sauces and dressings on the side, as these can add a lot of extra calories to a dish. For example, just two tablespoons of ranch dressing adds about 150 extra calories. Keeping the dressing on the side allows you to control the amount you eat. Another option is skip the premade dressings and just use olive oil and vinegar with salt and pepper.

Practice mindfulness at your meal. Trying to be mindful while eating can help improve your self-control and prevent overeating. Mindful eating means giving your full attention to your meal, meal choices and the eating process. Take the time to savor the flavors and the smells of your meal. Try putting your fork down between bites, which will slow you down so you can enjoy the eating process. Mindful eating has been linked to healthier food choices and more enjoyment. 

Chew on this. Digestion starts in the mouth. When you chew your food properly, your body releases digestive enzymes in the mouth and stomach that help break down your food so it can be converted into energy. When food is not broken down or digested you could suffer from issues such as constipation, low energy, heart burn, indigestion and headaches. Make sure you are swallowing the tiniest pieces possible. According to experts at Ohio State University, dense foods like meats and raw vegetables should be chewed up to 30 times before swallowing and softer foods 10 times. Chewing your food thoroughly can also slow down the eating process, increase nutrient absorption and prevent overeating. 

Above all else, be flexible with your food choices and be conscious how that meal will fit into your overall health and wellness goals. If you follow healthy lifestyle habits and meal patterns most of the time, go ahead and treat yourself. Moderation is key to success, and even moderation should be done in moderation. An occasional indulgence can be good for the soul.

Pathways to Healing specializes in holistic chiropractic care. Dr. Alyssa Musgrove draws on a variety of techniques, including chiropractic, kinesiology, nutrition, food allergy testing and lifestyle counseling to assist clients in achieving optimal health and wellness in one setting. Pathways to Healing is located at 1022 Founders Row, Lake Oconee Village, Greensboro. The office can be reached at 706-454-2040.

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