By Christine Houlihan, Sligo IT student on placement with Croí
Whether it’s the Monday morning breakfast roll to work or high tea on Sunday with the girls, there has never been more reason or temptation to eat outside of the home. More and more we find ourselves spending less time at home and more time out and about for things like work and meeting with family and friends.
It is estimated that one quarter of our calories come from foods and drinks cooked and prepared outside of the home. Cafés, restaurants, bars, canteens, delis, takeaways, meetings and markets, the list is endless. In general the foods and drinks served tend to be high in calories, fat, sugar and salt, which makes them oh so tempting but not the greatest for our waistlines or long term health.
Eating out is here to stay, but how do you experience all of the joy but none of the guilt that eating out has to offer? Here are some tips on eating healthy when out and about.
Tips for Eating Out the Healthy Way
- Fail to plan and plan to fail, take time to plan your meals in advance. If you find yourself eating out a lot then try and have a healthy go-to spot. Some places have a sample menu on their website giving you a taste of what’s on offer and even sometimes the calorie content of meals.
- Don’t arrive too hungry, as you are more likely to make poor decisions and overeat at your meal. It’s more difficult to avoid nibbling on bread sticks beforehand and overeating if you arrive too hungry. Avoid overdoing it by eating healthy snacks like fruit and nuts between meals if hungry.
- Downsize your portion, ask for a half portion of your meal. In asking for a half portion it allows you to enjoy your preferred meal without overeating and feeling bloated. Many restaurants will be able to package up the remainder of the meal, meaning you get to re-visit the experience in the comfort of your own home.
- Fill up on lower fat foods, eat a variety of vegetables, salads, fruits and legumes with your meals. Filling up on these foods helps you to feel fuller for longer and avoid overeating richer foods served as part of the meal. Try snacking on fruit if hungry before a meal, having salad as a sandwich filler, and ordering a side salad or bowl of vegetables instead of additional chips and potatoes.
- Skip the extras, don’t be afraid to ask for alterations and substitutions to your meal. Ask that butter or mayonnaise not be added to sandwiches, salad dressings and sauces on the side, boiled vegetables without added butter and for a cup of soup or side salad instead of chips or wedges.
- Embrace a challenge, try and opt for a more veggie-based option. Eating out is the perfect time to try tasty meals you would not normally prepare at home. Whether it’s a veggie lasagna or three bean Shepherd’s pie, very few of your favorites no longer have a meat free counterpart. Opting for a vegetarian option can make the meal more exciting and give you some inspiration on how to incorporate more vegetables, salads, fruits and legumes into your diet.
- Focus more on the people. Try and focus your attention on the people at the meal. Sharing a meal with others is a wonderful way to socialize. Directing your attention to those you are sharing a meal with can draw you away from temptations on menu boards whilst also slow down your eating and dining experience.
- Mindful Eating: eat with intention and attention. Mindful eating is a way of caring for your body. It can help you avoid overindulging whilst still enjoy the food experience to the full. Slow down and take time to scan the menu, take in the atmosphere, eat slowly, stay present noting all of the smells, tastes and textures of the meal. And when it’s time to stop, STOP. Don’t dwell on your mother telling you to clean your plate. Once full, leave a napkin over the plate or ask to have what’s left over boxed up to take home.
- Skip dessert or split dessert, and go for a walk. It’s no easy task to turn a blind eye to a selection of pastries at a meetings or the “special” on a desserts board. If you know you are going to be faced with a not so sweet decision try and pack a naturally sweet snack like fruit or a healthier homemade dessert. If temptation wins then why not share your delicious treat with someone and follow it up with a brisk walk to avoid going back for more.
- If having a little holiday, pack a picnic. With the summer months upon us and the sun coming out, it has never been a better time to pull out the picnic blankets and dust off the plastic cutlery. Have a rummage through your fridge and get planning a tasty selection of sandwiches and salads filled with seasonal fruits and vegetables. You will know exactly what’s in your lunch and will be amazed by how much money you save and fun you have in the process.