Navigating Restaurant Menus

By: Jacqueline Gilpin

As the New England weather grows chillier, going out to dinner quickly becomes the go-to for getting out of the house and spending time with someone besides your cat. While a big bowl of pasta may warm your bones during the cold winter months, it may not be the best choice for your diet. Eating out at restaurants has been labeled the downfall of dieting: unknown ingredients, larger portions, unbalanced meals, etc. However, dining out does not need to be the demise of your weight loss with a little creativity and forethought! Our restaurant tips will help you navigate menus and make satisfying choices that are best for your goals, while still enjoying time with friends and family.

Tip #1: Pick your Protein

Restaurants often give a wide variety of protein options in both the appetizers and the main dishes. Choosing a heart-healthy protein source, such as lean chicken or fish, will keep you satisfied without sacrificing your diet. Look for heart-healthy cooking methods such as “baked”, “roasted”, “grilled”, or “seared”, vs a fried, breaded, or battered protein.

Tip 2: A Variety of Veggies!

Aiming for your plate to be at least 50% vegetables can be applied in a restaurant setting as well as at home. Choosing plates with vegetable sides, ordering an additional vegetable, and choosing a salad/vegetable-based meal are all great ways to incorporate more vegetables into your dining experience!

Tip #3: Focus on Fiber

Choosing fiber-rich, plant-based foods will create healthy and satisfying meals. While you will not be able to look at the numerical fiber content of each dish, knowing foods that are high in fiber will help you make the best choices. Some great examples are sweet potato, lentils, nuts and seeds (such as almonds, chia seeds, and flaxseeds), cruciferous vegetables (such as brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, kale, arugula) and fruits like avocado and berries.

Tip 4: Cut the Carbs

Instead of going for grain and carb-based meals and sides (i.e. risottos, pastas), choose dishes with protein, vegetables, and healthy fats. The protein will help support lean muscle, the vegetables will promote detoxification and increase fiber, and the healthy fats will help keep you satisfied.

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