Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tips and Tricks - Eating Out

(I originally wrote this post when I lived in Houston but frankly, it applies everywhere! Just some good tips on eating out without derailing your progress.)

There are lots of great eating out on a diet articles out there but this is about lifestyle, not diet so I wanted to approach this a bit differently.  I'll revisit eating out a lot because I think it's one of the hardest things to do healthily.

Houston is a restaurant Mecca. When you ask a local resident what you should do while visiting Houston, they're likely to start listing off their favorite restaurants, and with good reason. Houston has one of the highest numbers of restaurants per capita in the USA and many of them are great. There's everything from high end culinary experiences, to fantastic $2 taqueria tacos. And there's everything in between. The great restaurants, along with high heat in the summer, means many people opt to eat out all summer long rather then turn on the stove.  While I certainly recommend lots of healthy home cooking for weight loss, as well as overall health, I've come to accept that eating out a lot is part of my new life in Houston. Below are just a few tips for eating out without weight gain.

- check the menu online first to choose a healthy option or allow the opportunity to create room in your day for a splurge

- skip the bread. Not just the bread basket, but considering removing half or all of the bun from a burger, empty your taco fillings on to your plate and skip the tortilla, or ask for spinach in place of half your pasta

- don't go in starving...especially to a Mexican place! Every Mexican place in Texas drops off a big bowl of chips and salsa as soon as you sit down and if you're hungry, you could easily eat hundreds of calories in chips.  And while you're avoiding overdoing it on the chips, just say no to queso...seriously, there is nothing about it that's good for you and a whole lot that's bad (processed, saturated fat, fake cheese - I mean really??)

- ask if you can sub your side for veggies.  More and more places will let you sub out high fat sides for veggies.  I recently discovered that my favorite Mexican joint, Lupe Tortilla, will let you get grilled asparagus instead of high fat beans and rice.

- choose lighter drinks. I love a good margarita but I've accepted that I just can't drink a ton of those and think I won't put on weight.  A lot of places offer skinny margarita options now which can be a good option but often means you're having fake sugar (splenda etc).  I generally stick to either red wine or vodka soda with lime because they are both fairly low in sugar and calories and because they aren't super sweet, you don't tend to drink them back quite as quickly as sugary drinks like margaritas, bellinis, daiquiris etc.

Eating out is a great chance to socialize with your loved ones.  Remembering it's about the people you're eating with as much as it is about the food can help prevent over eating.  Saving eating out for special occasions also helps (although doesn't seem to be common here in Houston!).  And when you do decide to splurge on a meal out, make sure it's one that's worth it - stay tuned for restaurants I think are completely work every calorie!

How do you stay on track while eating out? What healthy requests do you make? What's your favorite place to get healthy eats in Houston (or your home town)?

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