Secrets to Eating Healthy in Restaurants

Last summer  my family and I  spent a week at the beach. I was with my husband and two children, Kate and Jack, the two cutest little things on this Earth! Yes, I am biased.:)  Although it was nice to get away and take a break from regular life, I noticed that is was rather hard to eat healthy at restaurants. Even though we were able to cook some meals like breakfast and bring lunch to the beach, we still wanted to go out and relax for dinner. Let me tell you, the options were pretty slim, especially for my kids.

My clients often complain about this when they travel and feel that it is very difficult to decide what to eat when they go out.
Have you ever had the experience of going to a restaurant with the best intentions to eat healthy – so you order fish and vegetables? OR just a salad? Then when the fish comes, it is covered in cream sauce and the veggies are drenched in oil. The salad is full of iceberg lettuce smothered in creamy heavy dressing. You look at your plate and realize that “healthy” is nowhere on this plate.
Or perhaps you’ve been at a restaurant and made the mistake of walking in hungry and before you realize it, you’ve downed a basket of bread or chips?
For most people, the hardest part about maintaining a healthy regimen is eating out with friends and family. You are having fun being with friends or family. You just want to relax and eat whatever you want. Who wants to think so hard about food? All we want is just to have a good time, right?
I totally understand this sentiment. But, unfortunately two or three restaurant meals can be enough to slow your weight loss to a crawl (especially if you aren’t exercising). So, if you are someone who eats out more than once a week – than learning to eat healthy at restaurants may be the ticket to your weight loss success or promoting a healthy lifestyle.
So let’s start with mindset. So many of us associate eating out with unhealthy foods like excess cheese, wine and bread and we associate those foods with relaxation after a long day or a long week. We also associate comfort foods with having fun and finally being able to let go. The first place to start is to decrease this association. Yes, relaxing is important after a long week – but are there other ways to relax? Could you go for a walk, get a massage, call a good friend? The next time you are a restaurant and about to order the pasta with cream sauce – ask yourself, what does this food represent to me? If it’s fun, pleasure and relaxation – then could you get that in another way? It may take some time, but noticing your habits to let your unhealthy foods be the “fun” part of your life is a good place to start.

Second, there are a few simple tips you can try:

1. Never go to a restaurant starving. Always stop at a convenient store or at home and pick up a protein snack ahead of time. You don’t want to take the chance on inhaling the bread basket.
2. Decide ahead of time what you are going to order at the restaurant so that temptation on the menu does not get the best of you. You could even look at the restaurant menu on their website and take your time to find what is healthy.
3. Really look at the menu. There is usually a healthy option on every menu. It just takes time to find it. Most people order the first thing that they see on menus that suits them, but you must hunt for that which is tasty and healthy. You can get the menu ahead of time on-line if you tend to get embarrassed for taking the time to check out the menu thoroughly.
4. Be sure to ask the waiter what is in your food and ask for substitutions. I make sure I do this when I visit a restaurant. I might ask for my soup without the cream or an entrée without tons of butter or oil. Waiters and waitresses are happy to accommodate. If you are stuck in a place where you don’t want to be a pain, ask yourself this – Do you really want to find your ideal body? Or would you rather please everyone?
5. Know when you are going to have a splurge meal. Decide ahead of time what restaurants you love and pick those as your once a week splurge meal. You’ll find that it is easier to eat healthy if you allow yourself to eat your favorite foods once in awhile.
Use the suggestions for inspiration and guidance on your next restaurant outing – and remember that it all takes practice, so please be patient with yourself.

What do you think? Do you travel a lot or eat out in restaurants? If so, leave a comment below. I would love to know if you will use any of the secrets.:)

15 Comments on “Secrets to Eating Healthy in Restaurants”

  1. Hi Lisa,
    That is great and useful information! I have forwarded your link to a couple of my clients…great tips. One of my clients gave a great suggestion to me recently that works for her when eating out that I thought I might add: she asks for the waiter to bring a ‘to go’ container WITH her meal so that she can immediately put half of the usually oversized portion (as most restaurants do) aside to take home for eating later. That way she is not tempted to over-indulge. Keep up the good work, Lisa:)

    1. What a super idea! Love it! Thanks so much for sharing her smart tip for eating out. AND many thanks for sharing the love. You are AMAZING! xo

    1. Thanks, my love. Let me know which secrets work for you. Thanks for sharing and keep me posted, sista! xo

    1. Thanks, chica! Aren’t Kate and Jack so cute?! Let me know if you try one of the tips on your vacay to FL. Thanks for your comment. xo

    1. Oh, you are so like me! I really like to be prepared before I go out since it isn’t all that often. I used to just suck it up and get whatever is on the menu, but I found after I spoke up, I got what I wanted and felt more satisfied with a healthier choice. Thanks for sharing, Meaghan! xo

  2. Hi… perfect timing. We just got home from a week in florida with our 2 little boys (under 5). I was so frustrated to see that the kids menu were made of fried and nutrient void foods. I found ordering a full size entree and splitting it between them was the best chioce. This way our options opened and I could tweek the ingredients. Often the price worked out to be the same! Also…kids love adding fruit to h20 so that was a healthy option too. Bon appetite!

    1. Hi Jamie,

      I can totally relate with you! Did you go to Disney World? What a super idea~ getting a full entree (which can be on the more-healthy side) to split between the boys. AND fruit to boot! Woot hoot!!!! Thanks so much for sharing, Jamie! xo

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  4. Lisa,

    Great tips. You are SOOO right about the mindset thing. Eating healthy used to feel like such a chore. Now eating healthy feels more like a treat! Today was the first day I didn’t start my morning off with a green juice and all day I felt off (and then felt very icky about the coffee I resorted to…). I still drink coffee here and there but not often and when I do, now it feels more like the chore and less like the treat. I still like it but I can tell my mindset has totally shifted.

    Great restaurant tips. I’m big on not finishing my meal and taking some to go for the next day but it’s the bread that always gets me…

    1. Hey love, thanks so much for your message. I am sooooo with you; I actually crave a big salad or a green drink…keeps me so balanced and feeling good. It is like my body tells me right away what she wants.:) AND that bread basket, let me tell you, I actually have to tell the waiter to not bring one. That always saves me from inhaling the bread at dinner.

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