Tips for dining out
No matter if you’re eating at home or at a restaurant, the overall nutrition goal is to eat a balance and variety of foods. This means striving to include multiple different food groups, and switching up what you eat every once in a while. It might seem harder to eat nutritiously when you’re at a restaurant because you’re not preparing the food yourself, but you can definitely achieve these goals when you’re eating out. Here’s how:
Build a Balanced Plate: Think of ChooseMyPlate for this one; try to make your plate a combination of multiple food groups (that includes fruits and/or vegetables!). Look for veggies to include as one of your sides and for fruits to include in your desserts to get a wide range of vitamins and minerals from your outing. Consider checking out the menu of the restaurant you’re heading to before you get there, so you can plan how to build your balanced plate.
Reflect on Your Hunger Level: Some people fear they will eat too much when they go out. The reality is, regardless of the amount of food you’re served, you have the choice to eat whatever amount will satisfy your hunger in that moment. That means either stopping before you finish everything on your plate (potentially leaving you with leftovers to take home), or ordering more food until you feel full.
You may be thinking it sounds nearly impossible to stop eating when there’s still food left on your plate. It’s true a number of factors make this task challenging. For example, if you’re really, really hungry (Snickers commercial status), it’s harder to stop eating as soon as you’re full than if you were only a little hungry. Eating more often throughout the day may keep you from getting over hungry at meal times, and thus may prevent compensatory over eating. In addition, taking a second before, during, and after you eat a bite to take a deep breath and evaluate how hungry you are can help you decide if you still need more food, or if you would be okay stopping.
Enjoy Yourself: An important part of eating we sometimes forget is it’s an opportunity to enjoy time with the people around you. Stressing about what you “should” eat will inevitably make these experiences less enjoyable. If the menu only has vegetable options you don’t like, don’t force yourself to eat something that grosses you out, but instead order something you do like, and consider trying a different restaurant next time that might have different vegetable options. This isn’t considered “cheating” or “being bad.” The reality is there are no “good” or “bad” foods—an apple doesn’t “give you” health just as a cupcake doesn’t give you diabetes. Not to mention eating a diet exclusively of apples would prevent you from getting other important nutrients, and likely enough energy, as well. Moreover, despite apples having a variety of positive characteristics, including high vitamin and fiber content and providing us with needed energy in the form of sugar, we know having too much sugar (or too much of any nutrient), may not be so beneficial. So, adopting a “healthy” eating pattern doesn’t mean only eating fruits and vegetables, it’s about BALANCE. If you or someone you know needs help finding balance around food, feel free to contact the FAU Registered Dietitian.