When we cook at home, we control the ingredients we use, the spices we add, and the oils we drizzle. In restaurants, we relinquish a lot of control, and we often stray from our “perfect” diet. Still, it’s important to recognize the benefits of restaurant dining–like relaxation and socialization! Home-cooked meals are the absolute best, but no one should feel the need to sacrifice the pleasures of special restaurant meals for ideal home-cooked ones. Really, dining out doesn’t need to put a damper on your health goals.
When at a restaurant, here are 4 ways to stay as close to your “perfect” diet as possible!
1. When possible, skip the salad dressing and/or sauce.
The base of most dressings and sauces is an unhealthy, ultra-processed, cheap oil like Canola. Ask for your dish(es) without the dressing and/or sauce. Instead, request that your server bring olive oil, salt, and pepper (if they’re not already provided). Any salad or protein can be jazzed up with that all-star trio, and you’ll be able to avoid unnecessary toxins and sugars. It’s a win-win! (For a shocking breakdown of the sneaky sugar in many “savory” restaurant items, see this article titled “35 Sugariest Restaurant Meals on the Planet” by Eat This, Not That!)
2. Just say no to bread and breaded items.
Dr. William Davis, cardiologist and author of Wheat Belly, writes “wheat and related grains are potent appetite stimulants.” Why does the restaurant serve that bread bowl before dinner? Well, it’s likely not as hospitable as you think. The bread stimulates your appetite so that you’re likely to order more food…and later dessert! To sidestep any unnecessary hunger pangs, skip the bread bowl, the bun on your burger, and the breaded fried items. Instead, load up on the more filling items like steamed veggies, salad (dressed with salt, pepper, and olive oil!), and grilled protein.
3. Splurge on bites of shared desserts.
I like to look at the dessert menu just as much as the next person! However, I’ve realized that tiny bites of a dessert–or even multiple desserts–are just as satisfying as eating the entire thing. If you’re dying to splurge at the end of your meal, order a dessert (or two!) for the table and satisfy your sweet tooth with a couple of bites. Again, we’re aiming for a win-win here. You’ll get your splurge and feel much better than you would have if you’d eaten an entire treat.
4. Yellow and Dijon mustards are your friends.
Often, ketchup, barbecue sauce, honey mustard sweet and sour sauce, and their sweet counterparts are the preferred condiments; yellow and Dijon mustards get a bad rap! Typically, 2 tablespoons of ketchup contain about 8 grams of sugar, 2 tablespoons of barbecue sauce contain 12 grams, 2 tablespoons of honey mustard contain 10 grams, and 2 tablespoons of sweet and sour sauce contain 7 grams. Studies suggest that higher sugar intake from food and beverages correlates to chronic illness (like type 2 diabetes), dementia (including the more serious forms like Alzheimer’s), mental disorders (like depression), and more. As Max Lugavere, author of Genius Foods, advocates on this Fat-burning Man podcast episode, “Even mild elevation of blood sugar is correlated with shrinkage in memory centers of the brain.” That’s right! Even a mild elevation of blood sugar on a regular basis could be detrimental–in more ways than one! Therefore, it only makes sense to avoid sugar as much as possible. (See my prior post “Sidestep that Sneaky Sugar” for more tips.) Swap yellow or Dijon mustard for the ketchup on your burger (sans the bun, of course!). Yellow and Dijon mustards generally contain fewer than 1 gram of sugar per 2 tablespoons, so you can enjoy both with abandon!
Healthy eating and restaurant dining do not need to be mutually exclusive. With just a few easy mindset shifts, you’ll embark on a healthier lifestyle outside your home, as well!
After reading this post, are you likely to eat smarter when dining out? If so, how? Please share any thoughts or suggestions in the comments!
In each blog post, I aim to bring you food for thought (pun intended. Note: my day job is teaching English), but don’t take my word for it! Click on and read all of the links above to become your own expert on this topic; knowledge is power. The more you know and understand the “why” behind each biohack, the easier it will be to stick to it and realize you can’t live without it!