Fitness & Nutrition

You CAN Eat Healthy When Dining Out!

September 1, 2021

After months of closed signs, many area restaurants are opening their doors for in-store dining. This is great for local restaurants and businesses but may be bad for your health if you don’t take certain things into consideration when eating out. It is totally possible to eat healthy while supporting your local commerce, but you’ll need to prepare yourself to successfully avoid the temptations lurking on menus.

For most people, making healthy choices starts with understanding some simple rules of eating. Opting for real foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean meats, is a great place to start. Also, you can make great choices while dining out if you choose your restaurant carefully. Indiana and Hancock County have plentiful farm-to-table restaurants where you can indulge in fresh, seasonal options that are light on preservatives. 

Choosing to take your time, eating slowly, and enjoying your meal is another important aspect of maintaining a healthy relationship with food. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the “full” message from your stomach, which leaves ample time to overdo it, especially if you’re talking about a favorite dish from your favorite restaurant. Take small bites and savor the flavor. Taking sips of water in-between bites is also a way to stretch out your repast.

But what should I eat?

Eating out can be a slippery slope for those who are drawn to unhealthy foods and portions. One way to counteract this is to check the restaurant’s online menu ahead of time. If you know what you want before you go, you may make a better decision versus deciding in the moment when you’re ravenous. Focus on menu items that use the words grilled, broiled, or steamed, and steer clear of selections that mention fried, breaded, smothered, alfredo, rich and creamy.

Order menu items that include a vegetable or salad as well as lean protein. Sauces and dressings are great (and delicious) when added to meats or pastas, but you can always ask for them “on the side” so you can control how much is added to your meal. Soups are another great option if you’re trying to err on the side of healthy as they generally contain a fair number of vegetables. Just make sure you choose something broth-based as opposed to cream-based.

A word about food safety

When choosing to eat out, keep food safety in mind. This phrase usually brings images of raw or undercooked meats and fish. While this is an important factor, the term “food safety” can also refer to food allergies.

If you suffer from food allergies, it can be difficult to know which restaurants are safe. Some people have extreme allergies to everyday ingredients like gluten, dairy, and peanuts as well as soy and eggs. If they consume even a small amount of such residue, known as “cross-contamination,” they become incredibly ill. For these allergy sufferers, it’s helpful to read through the restaurant’s menu and website before dining. You may also need to call them to ensure they work to eradicate the chances of cross-contamination in their cooking.

Whether you’re just starting to make better lifestyle choices or you’ve been eating healthy for years, dining out can be made easy if you simply plan ahead. Keep in mind your body’s ability to tell you when you are full and fill your plate with healthy and simple foods to stay on track.