Going Out To Eat Doesn't Have to be Hard, Try These 5 Tips Next Time You Head Out for Food

Have you ever felt like you’ve been making really great choices at home, and then your friends ask you to go out to dinner, and suddenly that restaurant menu feels like an impending sabotage to your great-choice-making? 

Finding things at a restaurant that are both enjoyable to eat, and good for your body can be tough, especially since most restaurants suck at making a salad that’s actually satisfying. So, I decided to round up a couple of my favorite ways to live a healthy life, that include being social and going out for food.  

 
Pad Thai at The Green Elephant in Portsmouth, NH

Pad Thai at The Green Elephant in Portsmouth, NH

 

Tip #1: You’re out to eat, enjoy yourself!

I know the majority of restaurants do not have the most health-conscious options but, if going out for food is a treat for you rather than a regular occurrence, don’t be afraid to just enjoy yourself without feeling guilty about it. It would be miserable to live a life in which going out to a restaurant was always a restrictive, frustrating event. So instead, try to focus on making healthy decisions the majority of your everyday life so that when you’re out with friends, family, or on a date you can just get something you’ll really enjoy without having to think about it’s nutritional content. Admittedly, this tip isn’t the most helpful if you go out to eat all the time. If eating at a restaurant is a regular part of your life you’ll definitely want to keep reading. 

 
Sushi at Orient Pearl in Epping, NH

Sushi at Orient Pearl in Epping, NH

 

Tip #2: The sides menu

The sides menu at just about any restaurant is a gold mine of simple options. I am a pretty picky person, so when you add that to my desire to eat healthily you can imagine that many restaurant menus have little to offer me. Because of this, side menus are my savior, especially at chain restaurants. Side menus almost always have variety of potato options, rice of some sort, and at least one vegetable choice, if not more. So, what I do is I’ll order a baked potato/rice, with a couple sides of veggies, and enjoy a nice, super simple, nutritious dinner. Obviously not the most glamorous choice, but it’s easy, and healthier than just about every other option at most places, and I prefer this over the plate of iceberg lettuce most restaurants try to call a salad any day (more on this later). Most restaurants can also give you a side of grilled chicken, or shrimp, if you want to incorporate some meat into the meal. Bonus: ordering from the sides menu also saves you money! 

Example “side meals”: 

two sides of broccoli • side of rice

side of asparagus • baked potato • side of grilled chicken

side of chili • baked sweet potato

skewer of grilled shrimp • side of the 'vegetable of the day' • rice pilaf

 

 
Rice and vegetables from a sides menu, not glamorous, but delicious, nutritious, and satisfying!

Rice and vegetables from a sides menu, not glamorous, but delicious, nutritious, and satisfying!

 

Tip #3: Pick Asian, or Mexican

Health might not be the first thing you think of when someone mentions the Chinese buffet, or the local burrito place, but these varieties of cuisine tend to include more vegetables, and fresh ingredients than others (looking at you “American”). 

Whether it's Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, or a different variety, you can almost always count on an Asian restaurant to offer dishes that are loaded with vegetables. A lot of them also offer brown rice, as well as meats and seafood that aren’t just battered and fried (of course, they have those options too). These cuisines also usually include ingredients we aren’t always exposed to but offer great health benefits to us, like seaweed, turmeric, miso, and kimchi.

Mexican cuisine, you’ll soon realize, is my absolute favorite. Sure, there are plenty of fried, and melty, cheesy options but - there are also so many other nutritious possibilities when the primary ingredients are beans, salsas, cilantro, tomatoes, avocados and peppers. Next time you go to your favorite burrito place: get a salad or bowl, load it up with beans, add a little rice, ask for extra of all of your favorite salsas, add some guac, and more fresh toppings if they offer them - then enjoy a super filling, delicious, satisfying, and healthy salad! Tacos? Same plan: get your meats/beans, then load them up with veggies and salsa. If you prefer something a little heavier when you go out, try the veggie enchiladas, or go with a fajitas dish.

 
Mushroom "Chorizo" Tacos at Vida Cantina in Portsmouth, NH

Mushroom "Chorizo" Tacos at Vida Cantina in Portsmouth, NH

 

Tip #4: Strike a balance between indulgence and nutrition

So, you’re not feeling any of the “better” options on the menu tonight, it happens. Go ahead and order that thing you really want, but order a side of vegetables as well. When the food comes, eat the veggies first, then enjoy the rest, that way if you get full you ate more of the good stuff first. Another way to find a balance is to indulge “lightly;” get that incredible appetizer, or entree, or that sinful dessert, but you don’t always have to get all three on the same night, that’s a good way to make your body feel bad the next day, which usually isn’t worth it. Basically, that same balance that I encourage you to find throughout your life, can be employed in a single meal. Choose both - get salad with a side of french fries, or finish your grilled chicken and asparagus dinner off with a dessert. Going out to eat shouldn’t feel like a chore, or a sick form of torture, or be followed by endless amounts of guilt. Just find what works for you and roll with it.

Tip #5: Take that salad up a notch

Alright now about that “salad,” a.k.a. plate of iceberg with minimal vegetables. Paying $12 for the world’d most boring salad is just not worth it (to me anyway), but sometimes you just feel like a salad, or it’s really the only good option on the menu. I’ve been there, so what I do in this case is ask for extras. Your waiter might be a little less than enthused, but it’s your dinner, make sure you’re happy with it. Depending on what’s on the salad itself and what they have available in general, I’ll usually ask for extra vegetables, if they carry salsa, guacamole, or hummus, I’ll ask for that instead of dressing, or order a side of rice to bulk it up - experiment with the possibilities. Choose one of their salad options and tweak it to your preferences. You don’t have to settle, and it never hurts to ask for what you want, worst-case-scenario is they can’t do what you ask for, so you move on.

 
FIesta Bowl at Laney & Lu Cafe in Exeter, NH

FIesta Bowl at Laney & Lu Cafe in Exeter, NH

 

Bonus tip: Try your local healthy restaurants

This might be an obvious option, but I often think people forget that there are actually restaurants that specialize in delicious, and nutritious foods. If you have one near you, you should suggest it for your next meal out, you might just find your new favorite place!

 

Thank you so much for reading, now go out and try some of these tips - let me know how it goes! If you have any questions, thoughts, or future blog ideas, leave a comment or send me an email, I would love to hear from you! If you found any of these tips helpful feel free to share it with the buttons below. 👇

 

Live, Love,

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