Dining out can be fun. The camaraderie of friends and family, laughter, intimacy, new experiences in new places, familiar foods, exotic, unfamiliar foods. What’s not to love? Americans love to eat out, but now that you’re eating healthy, are you doomed to be excluded forever from these culinary adventures? Not if you learn how to eat healthy when eating out.
When you’re planning to eat out, it’s important to know why. Always ask yourself why, first.
Are you eating out because you want to spend time with friends and family and that’s what they’re doing? Great! Suggest some restaurants that you know you can eat at. Research a list ahead of time so you’ll always have suggestions available.
Are you eating out to try something new? Great! God has given us such an abundance of healthy foods and many cultures use healthy foods in their cooking. Again, research ahead of time so you’re not thrown off by an unfamiliar menu.
Are you eating out because you’re tired of eating healthy and you’re secretly (or not-so-secretly) trying to sabotage yourself? Now’s the time to put on the brakes and find out why you’re trying to sabotage yourself. This is beyond the scope of this article, but please, find out what is happening that is causing you to sabotage yourself and don’t eat out until you find out why you’re doing this.
If you know why you’re eating out and you have a plan, it’s easy to stick to your healthy eating agenda.
Ask For What You Want
Many restaurants nowadays provide a great deal of nutritional information. If it’s not on the menu, all you need to do is ask. Need a low-sodium meal? Gluten free? Dairy free? Sugar-free? Vegan? Organic and GMO-free? There are many options available and some restaurants even cater to specific food restrictions. (Just do a web search listing your city and the type of restaurant you’re looking for; eg., “Tucson organic restaurants.”) But what happens when you find yourself in a generic restaurant and you don’t want to blow all the hard work you’ve put into becoming healthier?
I’ve found that I can simply ask for what I want. For instance, I don’t eat grains, dairy, or sugar. So, depending on the type of restaurant I’m at, I’ve asked for and received these not-on-the-menu meals:
- A salad with a grilled chicken breast, balsamic vinegar on the side.
- Grilled chicken breast, salmon, or steak with grilled vegetables.
- A beef patty with avocado slices and sweet potato fries.
- A Cobb salad without cheese, bacon, or other processed meats.
- Scrambled eggs with vegetables.
Those are seven options that I can ask for at just about any restaurant. Even most fast food restaurants (which I recommend that you avoid altogether for reasons beyond the scope of this article) can give you a salad, a grilled chicken breast, or a plain hamburger patty. It just takes thinking outside the box.
Snacks When You’re Away From Home
What will you do if you’re going to be away from home for a long period of time without the possibility of eating a healthy meal? Fortunately, you don’t have to starve to death because there are many options.
Personally, I follow an intermittent fasting schedule, eating three meals per day about four hours apart. Because of this, I’m always full and I don’t need to snack. But sometimes I’m out and about at what would normally be a meal time for me. What do I do?
The first thing I’ve realized is that I won’t die if I skip a meal. There are some medical conditions, like hypoglycemia and diabetes, where you absolutely should eat regularly. Please follow your doctor’s instructions for this. Since I don’t have any medical reasons, it’s okay for me to skip a meal every now and then.
Here are some ideas for take-along snacks. Some require an ice pack in your tote bag, some can live in your purse indefinitely. Again, like with eating out, snacks require advance planning. Eventually, it will become second nature to you.
- Hard boiled eggs
- Carrots, celery, jicama sticks
- Nuts and seeds
- Kale chips
- Citrus fruits
- Granny Smith (sour) apples
Beware traditional snacks like dried fruits, which have high concentrations of sugar, and protein bars. There are some good proteins bars on the market, but you will need to research the ingredients to make sure you’re not eating an unhealthy food in a healthy-food disguise. I also do not recommend pre-prepared smoothies, which may have dairy and sugar in them. I don’t recommend edamame because it is an underripe soybean; soybeans are known endocrine disruptors.
When you eat healthfully, your cells will be satiated and you won’t need to overeat. That’s why eating healthy means you can eat until you’re satisfied and not have to go hungry. You can eat out, stick to your eating plan, and enjoy yourself. It just takes a little forethought and planning, and you can learn how to eat healthy when eating out.
If you need help making good food choices, learn more in my new book, Be in Health: Bible-Based Health Restoration: Living in Harmony with God’s Ways Regarding Health. Available now.