I see it all the time: someone starts a new diet, and they feel like they have to say bye-bye to going out to eat, because there are no healthy options when we’re out. But sometimes, the healthy options aren’t the ones you think…or the ones listed on the menu.
A lot of the advice we hear when it comes to going out to eat is based on the latest weight loss trend, how to lose weight the fastest, or tips and tricks for getting the lowest number of calories in. But first off, those tips are soooo 1999! And more importantly, they often don’t take into account the overall health of our bodies or the quality of food we’re feeding ourselves. In fact, the more we start paying attention to these things, the more we start to notice actual sustainable weight loss.
Now, unfortunately for my bank account, but fortunately for you, I have first hand experience with how to find and ask for the healthiest tips when you’re out for brunch, lunch, dinner, or just coffee:
1. HOT WATER AND LEMON CAN HELP WITH DIGESTION, AND REDUCE BLOAT.
Pretty much everywhere you go to eat, they will have boiled water and lemon.Drinking a cup of warm water with a slice of lemon squeezed in, helps to prepare the body for food(especially fats). When our bodies are prepared, they do a better job of releasing the right amount of stomach acid and enzymes to break it all down, causing less bloat at the end of it all. Try having your warm water and lemon first thing, before any food.
2. TRY DRINKING YOUR COFFEE OR TEA PRIOR TO YOUR MEAL, NOT AFTER.
If you follow me on Instagram, this is something I talk about a lot in my posts and stories. Here’s why I try to drink my caffeinated drinks before my meal, and I try to avoid the re-fill during or after my meal:
Coffee is considered to be acidic in nature.When it goes into the stomach, it makes the whole environment acidic. That level of acidity triggers the little valve in the stomach to open up and release its contents.Okay, so who cares if the stomach releases it’s contents prematurely? Unfortunately, it results in more gas and bloating after meals, but more importantly, it’s not allowing for the food in the stomach to fully digest before going on to the next phase of the digestive tract.And if our food doesn’t get fully broken down and turned into mush in our stomach, absorption of those nutrients can become really difficult for the body(because if you can imagine, the food is still in “chunks”, and those pieces are too big to be absorbed into the cells to do what they need to do).
In my practice, I see a lot of nutrient deficiencies(low iron, protein, vitamin D, etc.),and one of the first things I suggest is for clients to avoid washing away their nutrients with coffee after a meal. What I suggest instead is having a coffee(or two) 20 minutes before a meal, or if that’s not possible, to try to wait at least 2 hours after. Ideally, we want to drink any caffeinated beverages(coffee, black tea,etc.) on an empty stomach to promote good digestion.
3. DRINK LIQUIDS BEFORE THE MEAL
This one is along the same lines as the coffee. Food tends to float around in liquid(same as if you were to add any solid foods to a large glass of water). But when we look at the acidity levels of the stomach(which comes from the release of stomach acid), food is better able to break down with our stomach acid and better able to turn into “mush” so that we can absorb nutrients. But when we drink liquids(tea, coffee, wine, water), it tends to water-down or dilute that stomach acid. For good digestion, and to avoid gas and bloating, we don’t want to mess with that acidity or pH too much during meal times, and instead, we want to drink those liquids prior to, on an empty stomach.
4. SALAD ISN’T ALWAYS THE HEALTHIEST OPTION
This is probably the most common misconception out there when it comes to healthy eating. Often, when someone is on a diet, they will opt to get the salad on the menu because “its less calories”, it’s “lighter” and it’s “the healthiest option”. Not necessarily.
*Note: the tips I’m about to give do not apply to you if you are going to a restaurant and truly craving to eat a salad, or you are specifically wanting to eat a salad. These tips apply to you if you are going out to eat, and you believe that you “should” get the salad because “it’s the healthiest option”:
First off, the common mistake that most people make with their salads is that they are not filling enough. If you are having a salad as a meal, then it should really be a MEAL, with a protein source, healthy fats, fibre, and all the things that are actually going to satiate you for several hours.
Secondly, salads can be one of the most unhealthy things on a menu because of the low quality oils and artificial sugars used in the dressing. No, I’m not going to suggest you “get the dressing on the side” and only use half of it.I’m actually going to go out on a limb and tell you to avoid the salad all together!I say this because the oils that are typically used in restaurant-made salads are often the lowest quality oils that should really never ever be consumed. Same goes for the sugars in the dressing: as a result of a demand for low-calorie options, restaurants often use salad dressings that contain artificial sugars, that again, should really never be consumed.
What I do when choosing a salad off the menu, is ask the server to tell me what type of dressing they use.9 times out of 10, they’ll tell me that the oil used is Canola oil, or some other refined vegetable oil. In that case, if I still want to order a salad, I will ask if they can not use the dressing, and instead provide me with some extra virgin olive oil and some lemon slices on the side.This is one way that I choose to up the nutritional quality of my food, and start paying attention to the ingredients on my plate, not the calories.
5. DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR SUBSTITUTES
Whether you’re looking for dairy-free options, gluten-free, vegan, or pretty much anything else, you often won’t find it listed directly on the menu(depending on the restaurant – I find a lot of places are including more options visibly on the menu lately).But don’t be afraid to ask your server for an option that is more suited to your preference. You will often be surprised what they can do if you just ask.
I also believe that when we ask questions, or create more of a demand for quality ingredients, it will hopefully evoke some sort of change in the food industry.When I go out to eat, one of the things I often specifically ask my server about is the oils used when cooking or preparing food.My intention is obviously to avoid those oils as much as possible, but also to create a bit of a buzz and a demand for more quality ingredients from restaurants. Because the more they hear people asking these questions, the more they see that people are demanding healthier options and refusing low quality ingredients, it will hopefully affect the decision-making process when it comes to how they prepare their foods.
Ultimately, life is about balance, and this post is not intended to suggest that we avoid restaurant food or having fun meeting friends for a meal out. But I’m hoping that these simple tips help us all to be a little bit more conscious of our choices when we’re away from home, and also help us to realize that healthy can be simple! No need to complicate it with calorie-counting and all that jazz!
I’d love to hear from you! If you have any questions, or if you have tips to share with me, please message me below or connect with me on Instagram!