Is healthy restaurant dining possible as we slowly return to eating out?

The pandemic has undoubtedly caused us to change our eating habits. We have resorted to healthier practices to help keep us in shape and have significantly lessened eating out. In fact, the city of Los Angeles – a known gastronomic hotspot – has seen a decline in restaurant visits in the last year due to shutdowns, decreased seating capacity, and social distancing practices. This affected the city’s food scene greatly but it has also forced people to rediscover cooking healthy for themselves.

Cooking at home has a lot of benefits and preparing healthier meals is one of them. You control what you eat and how much you eat. But now that COVID-19 cases have reduced and restaurants are slowly opening their doors to in-store diners again, it is no surprise that the majority of us have returned to our pre-pandemic ways. While it is good to support your local restaurants, this can make us lose track of our health and fitness goals.

Healthy Restaurant Dining is Possible

Dining out might be convenient, but this only fosters unhealthy eating. Based on the American Heart Association 2020 Diet Score, about 70 percent of fast-food meals and 50 percent of full-service restaurant meals are of poor dietary quality. More than 35,000 adults from the US were analyzed according to their selections for this study.

Overeating is also a lot more likely when you choose to eat at an outside establishment. Since most restaurants have an extensive menu, you tend to order and consume more. This definitely normalizes the unhealthy lifestyle decision.

So how do we maintain the healthy practices we started while still enjoying dining out? Here are some strategies to consider:

1. Do Your Research and Plan Ahead

Planning ahead is the key to healthy restaurant dining. Check the restaurant’s menu and see what works for your dietary plan. A lot of establishments these days also disclose the number of calories on their menu items so take advantage of this. This might not be applicable to gatherings and celebrations, but if you’re a frequent restaurant-goer, this is the way to ensure you’re making smart food choices.

2. Don’t Fall For The Upsell

Attempts to bring in more customers are prevalent these days to make up for the losses incurred during the past year. It’s easy to fall into the trap of low-cost add-on items, free drinks, or buy-one, get-one offers for obvious reasons, but you have to remember that while you’re saving a buck, you’re piling on calories. Upsell tactics like these facilitate overeating, so be careful when you order.

3. Try Asking for Substitutions

More often than not, restaurants would be willing to accommodate a guest’s requests, especially if it’s for dietary reasons. Don’t hesitate to ask your restaurant staff if they can customize your meal, even if it is something as simple as swapping your fries to a side salad. There is absolutely no harm in trying! You are making a conscious effort to reduce carb intake or cut fat from your meal, so there is nothing to be ashamed of.

4. Drink Smart

Sugary or alcoholic drinks are often the culprit of weight gain, especially if it’s something you’re used to when eating out. Try cutting down on the soda or your favorite cocktail as they can rake in a lot of calories and opt for something like unsweetened tea or lemonade with some sparkling water if you aren’t feeling regular water that day.

5. Eat Your Vegetables

It is important to incorporate vegetables into your meals as much as possible, so look for restaurants that carry a wide selection of salads, veggie dishes, and the likes. Vegetables are packed with fiber and vitamins & minerals that can help make a meal more nutritious and filling. These days, people get creative with their veggies, so you’re bound to find something you will like.

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