Eating out at restaurants can be challenging. Your nutrition is in the hands of somebody else and you are trusting them to prepare, cook, and deliver it properly, and on top of that, for it to taste great! When I eat out, I sometimes look up the restaurant’s menu ahead of time and “plan” this meal in to my day. Other times however, I just want to go out and enjoy myself (75% of the time).
Here are some of the top pieces of nutrition advice I can give when navigating a menu:
1. Ask questions.
I know, I hate bothering the server and/or chef as well, but their #1 priority is to make the customer happy. That being said, they want you to order what you truly want, so that your experience is one-of-a kind. If you have questions about what comprises a dish, the oils they cook with, if the dressing comes on the side, etc…these are all questions I encourage you to ask!
2. Ingredient’s concern.
Personally, I know when eating out that I am most likely not going to be eating as healthy as I would be at home- that’s just part of the game and also a reason why we shouldn’t do it every day. However, if there is one piece of advice I can give on what ingredients to watch out for, it is oils. Not sugar, oils. Of course, sugar is important too, and we don’t want to be ordering a lemonade with pasta and ice cream for dessert, however I don’t commonly see this with my client’s. Typically they are wise and will still order a fairly healthy entree, such as fajitas, for example. Although the fajitas may be “macronutrient friendly,” as in, they may be lower in calories than some other menu items, this does not guarantee that they are “healthy.” That brings me to my next point, oil is more important than sugar. There, I said it! When searching for a restaurant, look at their menu and see if they cook things in olive/coconut oil or some other inferior oil. If they don’t say it, you can always ask!
Why are oils so important?
I am a firm believer that reducing inflammation should always be the #1 nutrition goal (Check out our related blog post on this topic). This is relevant for those wanting to prevent chronic disease, maximize athletic performance, or even just lose weight. The reason why you should stray from poor quality oils (and sugar) when eating out, is because they cause your inflammation levels to sky-rocket. Sure, this may not be a huge issue when done only occasionally. However, if you are constantly working hard every day to manage stress, consume adequate Omega 3’s, decrease your Omega 6 consumption, and take care of your body—- then you should want to steer clear of anything that will negate all of your hard work.
Balance of macronutrients is crucial. Every meal you eat (outside of your exercise zone) should be a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. When paired in conjunction with one another, we are able to obtain the maximum nutritional benefit from our meal. Also, eating a balanced meal helps to stabilize our blood sugar, resulting in a slow release of insulin (this is ideal). When we eat something very high in carbohydrate, with little to no protein or fat, our insulin spikes dramatically. Chronic overuse of insulin causes our pancreas (the organ that secretes insulin) to burn out and the ending result…Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Also, carbohydrates are very easy for our body to digest, and as result, we typically get hungry quickly after eating. Menu items at restaurants are typically low in protein, and very high in carbohydrates and low-quality fats. Sometimes you may have to order an extra side of protein with your meal and perhaps ask for just 1 starch, instead of 2. It is these easy swaps that will make all the difference!
What are some principles you have in mind when you enjoy a meal out?
Please share below!