- Keep salt in check
Choose fewer foods that have been smoked or made with soy sauce or teriyaki sauce. Look for ‘light’ versions of these sauces and ask for them to be served on the side. Do not add additional salt to your dish, and exchange salt for peppers, other spices, herbs and lemon.
- Ask for sauces on the side
Sauces, condiments, dressings and spreads can add excessive amounts of fat and salt to your meal. Ask for these on the side, so you can control how much you consume. Keep sauces to a minimum and use just enough to deliver some flavour.
- Skip sweet drinks
Drink water in place of sweetened drinks such as soft drinks, ice tea or lemonade. Try sparkling water with lemon or lime slices. If you drink alcohol, limit it to one or two drinks for the day.
- Learning the lingo
Knowing menu terms and cooking basics makes ordering easier. Ask how the food was prepared. Order foods that have been steamed, baked, grilled or roasted. Fat and calories add up quickly when food is fried, deep-fried or breaded. Also watch out for sautéed items or foods described as ‘crispy’, ‘rich’ or ‘au gratin’. Choose plain boiled rice instead of fried and go for boiled or jacket potatoes rather than chips or wedges.
Prepare in advance
Examine the restaurant’s website ahead of time. Look for healthier options that are higher in protein, fibre and vitamins and lower in calories, fat, sugar and salt. Ensure you eat a light dinner if you consumed a heavy lunch that day. Or, if you know ahead of time that you are going to a restaurant, cut back on calories during other meals during the day.
- Eat slowly: it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message from your stomach that you are no longer hungry. Fast eaters often are overeaters, while slow eaters tend to eat less and yet are still satisfied. Wait until you have eaten your main course before you order a pudding. When you have finished the main course, you may discover that you are satisfied.
- Pause during meals and put your knife and fork down between each mouthful. Taste and savour each mouthful of your meal – enjoy the experience.
- Practice refusing offers to overeat. Learn to say, ‘No thank you’, politely but firmly.
Restaurants may feel intimidating to people trying to stick to a healthy diet, but, with a little preparation and confidence, you can enjoy your restaurant meal without abandoning healthy eating by implementing some smart eating strategies.