seasaltNo matter where you’re eating–at home or at your favorite Italian bistro–it’s important to be mindful about what you are putting into your mouth. Restaurant food is convenient, filling and usually delicious. Unfortunately, eating just one meal out can cause you to reach or exceed your daily calorie, sodium and fat intake for an entire day.

While the no-hassle temptation of a restaurant is hard to resist, Ageology physicians agree that too many frequent restaurant meals can have serious implications on your overall optimal health. But as an informed consumer, you can make healthier choices while eating out and still enjoy the convenience of restaurants and the delicious meals they have to offer.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you order your next restaurant meal:

  • Split an entrée with a friend.
  • Take half of your food home and enjoy it for your next meal. To prevent yourself from eating all of it, ask for a to-go box as soon as it’s served and put half of your meal in it right away.
  • Order lean protein—a steak, fish or chicken—with a side of steamed or stir-fried vegetables (if it’s the latter, ask for minimal oil). If that isn’t a menu choice, ask for it explicitly.
  • If cheese is part of your meal, ask for half the usual cheese allotment or have the cheese brought to you on the side so you can add it judiciously.
  • If you order salad, ask your server to put the dressing on the side. Use only as much as needed to add a little flavor. Even better: request olive oil and vinegar on the side.
  • Say “no thanks” to the bread basket or chip bowl. These foods are addictive and incredibly easy to over-consume.
  • Do not add extra butter or salt to your meal.
  • If you have a beverage, make it something without processed sugar—not diet soda, but tea or coffee. A glass of seltzer with lemon or lime is another healthy option that carries zero calories.  A glass of red wine is a healthy option, but not three glasses.
  • If you order a burger or a sandwich, ask for fatty and sweet toppings (mayo, ketchup, bacon) to be delivered on the side, and only eat half of the bun or bread. Forget the dessert, unless you have a group of people who all want a bite of something sweet. If that’s the case, order one and share it.
  • Eat slowly, chew each bite thoroughly and sip room-temperature water as you eat. That way, you’ll feel full before you’ve overdone it.

Do you have any suggestions of your own to help others eat healthy in restaurants? Share them in the “Comments” section below.

Photo credit: SeaSaltWithFood