We know it is usually healthiest to prepare our own food at home, but there are so many occasions to eat out. It can and should be enjoyable to go out and relax and be served! Take the pressure off with these tips to get you through the world of dining out while consistently putting the best quality food you can in to your body.
*My number one tip is to plan ahead as much as you can to ensure a stress free meal.
- Check out the menu in advance & have a plan. Shop the menu online in advance if you can. Pick a few things and even call ahead to ask a few questions about the food. It is helpful to have a plan before hand so you are not caught at the last minute trying to piece together a healthy meal, No one wants to be ‘that person at the table” who is sending the server back and forth to the kitchen to ask questions about the menu ingredients. Call ahead, get informed and order seamlessly when you get there. From tons of experience, no one will ever notice you’re ordering differently. Do your homework ahead of time and create a list of wonderful restaurants in your area that have things like grass fed beef, wild fish and hormone/antibiotic free proteins on their menu.
- Find out what types of oils are being used. Avoid canola, sunflower, safflower, grape seed and other highly refined oils when ever possible. (See my “upgrade your lipids/fatty acids” section on my website for more information on why.) Again, calling ahead you may be able to decide on something that is prepared in quality oil. Things that are grilled, baked and broiled are less likely to be drenched in unhealthy fats.
- Create an amazing salad. Most places that have salad have a few good toppings and some extra virgin olive oil. Order a spinach, kale or arugula based salad and make a few special instructions that include some wild fish, hard cooked eggs or other antibiotic and hormone free proteins. Add on some avocado, a few colorful veggies and some nuts as well. Ask your server for a side of vinegar or lemon and a generous side of extra virgin olive oil and you’re set! (Order with confidence, a kind smile and mention that you do not mind an up-charge for your changes and your server is more than likely to help.)
- Steer clear of the chips and bread baskets. First of all, these are nutrient-poor fillers that will take up room in your stomach for nutrient rich foods. Ask your server not to bring them or try a substitute. Most restaurants will be happy to bring you some cut veggies instead. Tortilla chips are many times made of corn that has likely been sprayed heavily with pesticides, they are then typically fried in very unfavorable inflammation causing oils. Bread and pita chips are usually made with genetically altered wheat and contain gluten, these are pro-inflammatory foods. Check the menu ahead of time for a delicious appetizer and order that instead of bread or chips to kick off your meal.
- Add as many veggies as you can. Order your meal with a double serving of the veggies rather than the starch. Most chefs and servers will not mind at all making this substitute and you will benefit from extra nutrients and fiber.
- Try bison if there is no grass fed beef, wild fish or humanely raised meat. Or try it because it’s delicious! Try bison as an alternative at restaurants that do not carry high quality meats. Bison are not likely to be confined to feedlots or cages as the industry is not as large as the cattle industry, so their meat is more likely to be grass fed. The majority of bison are not given growth hormones or antibiotics as well, making this an even better bet.
- Want dessert? Try some berries with a little whipped cream. Poached fruit desserts can be delicious, just avoid the pastry that is usually along side. Many fine dining establishments have a cheese and fruit platter to end the meal. Two of my dessert tricks are to share with others if everyone is ordering dessert so at least your sugary portion will be much smaller OR I always bring a few squares of high quality dark chocolate along to pop in my mouth when everyone is gobbling fried cake with caramel sauce, it definitely keeps me from digging in 🙂
- If the proteins are lower quality go for eggs. Buy pasture raised eggs at home, but when you find yourself at an establishment with not much in the way of healthy proteins and you really need something to keep you going, ask for some eggs. They are an efficient way to get a little protein and contain less antibiotics and hormones than meat.
- There are plenty wonderful restaurants with talented and incredible chefs, make a list of the places you would like to try and you’ll have a ready suggestion when deciding where to go with friends. (Denver-ites- look for my list of the top places in town to enjoy the overall highest quality cuisine) Focus on and get excited about the things that you DO want to eat rather than focusing on what is out there that you should not eat. Remember to educate yourself and plan ahead to make dining out a wonderful experience rather than a minefield of unwanted foods