With summer on the way, all of us love getting out of the house! Dining out with friends is one of the rites of the season and summer fun almost always includes great food and drink.
Dining out doesn’t have to be hard – or unhealthy! Read our tips on how to enjoy a healthier dining experience.
Do your homework beforehand.
Check the menu online before you go out. Many menus will provide nutritional information online. You can know what you want before you go and if you don’t find what you need, you can choose to go elsewhere.
Seek out chef-driven “farm-to-table” restaurants.
Independent chef-driven restaurants offer a wide variety of healthy entrées and courses, which frequently contain locally-sourced produce and/or free-range proteins. You may even find an artisanal cheese & fruit plate that includes sweet but healthy, locally-grown fruits and cheeses!
Another bonus is that these restaurants commonly provide menu options in smaller portions or “shareable” plates.
Ask questions and customize your experience.
Restaurants are happy to customize your meal to meet your needs. If the entrée is fried, ask for it to be grilled. Opt for healthier sides, like a side salad or coleslaw instead of fries. You can even navigate straight to the “lite” or “low-fat” menu options, which are often in a special section of the menu. Remember, you don’t have to eat the entire portion in one sitting. Today many restaurants provide double or even triple portion sizes, so ask for a box or split your entrée with a friend!
Be mindful of your salad ingredients!
Skip the bacon bits and don’t overload on dressing! Pile on the good veggies and for some added sweetness, throw in some fruit. You would be surprised what a little apple or pear can do to change the flavor of your salad. Tip: Ask for your dressing on the side. Dip your fork in the salad dressing and then grab a nice bite of the salad. You will consume much less dressing this way – and save calories!
Just say no!
Three things to skip – the bread basket, sugary drinks and dessert! Ask your waiter not to bring bread to the table and share a side salad as an appetizer. Choose water or unsweetened tea as your beverage. If you do want to indulge in an alcoholic beverage, stay away from mixed drinks which include added sugars. Stick with wine or a light beer. As for the delectable dessert ending, if you need to satisfy your sweet tooth, opt for a fruit bowl.
Take your dining experience into your own hands! Shop your local farmer's market.
Dining “out” in summer can also mean a neighborhood barbecue, a pool/ lake party, or a picnic at the park. This is where you are in charge of the dining experience.
Do some online research to find the best farmer’s markets in your area. The shopping alone can be a fun, healthy snack or meal time. Most markets give away samples right from the stand or even off the grill. (Once you’ve nibbled on heirloom tomatoes or nutty greens, you may never return to the supermarket for the rest of the season!)
Bring your farmer's market finds to the outdoor party and have an amazing “dining out” experience that is also very healthy. Even if you bring the farmer’s market groceries home, trying new and exciting recipes in your own kitchen tastes like an evening out!
With a little planning, it is possible to have a healthy dining out experience. Keep our tips in mind and you will be fine.
Here’s to a fun and healthy summer ahead!