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Dining here, there and everywhere

Giselle Reyes

Registered Dietitian

Coming up to the holidays, many people find themselves eating away from home more often. Whether visiting family or friends, attending holiday parties or simply not having enough time to cook, dining out can quickly become a regular occurrence. While typically an enjoyable and relaxing experience, eating out also can cause many people stress. Not being in control of what foods are offered, and how they are cooked, can throw a wrench in the works of a healthy eating routine.

Here at Retrofit, we believe that a healthy lifestyle should not be a restrictive one. There are plenty of ways for you to enjoy all the wonderful experiences of eating out without consuming too many extra calories.

Menu madness

First, plan ahead. Most restaurants have their menu available online, and often, this version contains the nutritional information of each dish. Look at how each dish is described. In general, it’s wise to stay away from the words creamy, crispy or fried. These cooking methods tend to add calories/fat to your meal. Instead, opt for dishes with words like grilled, steamed, baked, broiled or roasted.

Look for balanced entree options with 50 percent of the plate produce, 25 percent whole-grains and 25 percent protein.

Choose what you are having ahead of time and stick with that choice. Deciding what you are going to have away from the tempting sights and smells of the restaurant, and the social pressures of those around you, will help you to make the healthiest decision possible.

Can I take your order?

In the restaurant, armed with your menu choice, don’t be afraid to ask your server any questions you may have. Most will be happy to answer your menu questions and to make substitutions if they can. Switch out fries for a baked potato or side salad. Ask for veggies to be cooked without butter or oil or ask for dressing and sauces on the side. Use your knowledge of cooking methods to make a dish even healthier. If you’re ordering a crispy chicken salad, ask for it with grilled chicken instead. Little swaps like these can significantly reduce the amount of calories/fat in your dish, without sacrificing taste.

Portion control

As many of you know, restaurant portions can often be way bigger than needed. A great trick to keep your portion size in check is to ask your server to bring a to-go box with your meal. Before you take your first bite, put half in the box and resolve to bring it home. Not only will you not over eat at the restaurant, but you will have a delicious meal already prepared for the next day.

Extra extra!

A common pitfall when dining out is focusing on ordering a healthy entree, but forgetting about what else might be at the table. A great way to limit the number of extra calories consumed is to choose between an appetizer, dessert or caloric beverage. Choose which you would enjoy most and go without the other two. If you are planning on having an alcoholic beverage, drink in moderation. Alcoholic beverages not only can be high in calories, but can lower our temptation resistance threshold as well.

Try to stay clear of bread baskets and chip bowls. They can increase your calorie intake without you even noticing. Again, don’t be afraid to ask your server to help you out. Request that the bread or chips be taken away from the table, or have them moved to the other end of the table, out of reach. Having temptation sitting in front of you makes it very easy to mindlessly consume extra calories, that you may not even want.

Follow these strategies and no longer dread dining out! Incorporating your healthy habits into the different challenges life throws your way will not only help you maintain your progress, but will give you the confidence to enjoy all that life has to offer, your way.

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