Let’s be honest now, we all love dining out! The smells, the atmosphere, the company, the food – almost everything about it is just SWELL.
But, if you lean towards the healthier side of life then it can become a nightmare; torn between wanting to enjoy your meal and worrying about the implications on the healthy diet that you strive hard for. Well fear not, prepare to become enlightened on how you can enjoy date night, a party or just a weeknight catch up and still remain in peak condition.
1. Pay Attention to the Cooking Method
At the majority of restaurants, the primary result of the dish being prepared is to be tasty and satisfying, it’s all about enjoying the food. If you still want to enjoy your food and not feel the guilt start to creep in then you need to take a look at the way the food you choose is cooked.
You could ask about the fat that they are cooking with, while butter or olive oil may be used, you just can’t be sure of the quantity – if this makes you uneasy, ask for your meal to be prepared ‘dry’ which means no fats or oils to be used.
Opting for dishes that have been grilled or steamed means that you have peace of mind that no extra fats have been adding in the cooking process. Also, be aware of the sauce that accompanies your dish, it’s likely that creamy ones are loaded with butter milk and cheese.
2. Swap out Your Sides
This is a no brainer; if you have done the work and made sure that your meal is going to be cooked in the right way – then don’t put the effort to waste and stick with the sides that are likely to be carb, fat and salt heavy.
Many eateries are now offering sweet potato fries on the menu – great news right? Probably not as they have probably been dipped in the deep fat fryer, losing much of their nutritional value. Swap your fries or coleslaw for a fresh salad, green vegetables or crudités. It’s not uncommon to see vegetable sticks served with hummus as a starter or appetiser, ask the server if you can have items such as these instead of the ones listed – 9/10 it’s no problem at all!
3. Consider Your Salad
You’ve gone out for a meal and you’ve chosen a salad? Well kudos to you, the will is strong. But before you start polishing that halo – let’s take a look at the salad.
If your salad contains lettuce, ask if there’s anyway they can swap it for spinach or kale or romaine lettuce at least. Most salads start with iceberg lettuce, which offers NOTHING in terms of nutrition.
If your salad is loaded with cheese, croutons or lashings of dressing then it is no longer the lighter choice! Perhaps ask for these to be served on the side so that you can control how much is added and remember to ask about the dressing, because ‘fat free’ or ‘light’ options are loaded up with sugar and artificial sweeteners. My suggestions for dressings is either a splash of balsamic vinegar or ask for some avocado for creaminess and a dash of chilli flakes or chilli sauce for extra flavour.
4. What’s Your Tipple?
Believe it or not, a few glasses of the wrong drink could undo all of your hard work when it comes to the decisions you made with your food.
If you are drinking alcohol then the healthiest choice is to stick to clear spirits such as a gin or vodka with soda water or tonic, with some fresh limes and lemon.
Beer, wine and cider are all SUPER high in sugar and calories; an average bottle of fruit cider contains 30g sugar on average. There’s not much you can do about diluting beer, but you could swap your glass of wine for a spritzer with lots of ice and soda water! Cocktails are elegant and delicious, but are packed with sugary fruit juice! Once thought to be a healthy drink, now considered to be as bad as soda.
Dr Frank Lipman explains further, “Converting whole fruit into liquid requires a lot of processing. Along the way, the once-healthy fruit gets pasteurized, pulverized, filtered, pureed and stored in massive vats for months at a time, all of which chips away at the nutrients, vitamins and belly-filling fibre the fruit once had. Then, they pump the liquefied fruit full of sugar. All that added extra sugar spikes your blood sugar because there’s no fibre to slow its release into the blood stream. Next, you get the crash, followed by hunger and cravings, none of which you’d experience had you eaten the whole fruit instead. And be aware of clever marketing claims.”
If you are sticking to soft drinks, you should also avoid diet or light version of drinks as they are sweetened artificially and definitely not the healthier option!
5. Preventative Methods
Like doing the shopping, it’s best not to go out for dinner when you are absolutely ravenous because your body will want to be showered with fat and sugar for a burst of energy!
Have a light snack an hour or so before, rice cakes with peanut butter, some fruit with Greek yoghurt or even a protein shake. This will stop you from over ordering, over eating or eating the wrong foods entirely!
The Team at Cardiff Sports Nutrition offer some dishes to try, “Having a satisfying snack before you off to ‘indulge’ will encourage you to make more mindful choices when dining out. Protein increases the bodys production of hormones that fight hunger and you don’t feel the need to opt for a quick, unhealthy fix at dinner. Try snacks such as roasted chickpeas with garlic powder and chilli flakes, or eggs cooked on top of a Portobello mushroom with some goat’s cheese. Or if you need a sweet fix, protein muffins with dates, coconut and quinoa give you a sweet hit without the refined sugar. “
Having a glass of water before your food comes, or in between courses can help your digestions and also prevent you from over eating. Haring your starters or desserts will also mean that you consume less calories!