Eating healthy doesn’t mean depriving yourself, unnecessarily cutting out foods or entire food groups, or cutting calories to a dangerously low number. Instead, it should focus on that unicorn of the health world that we’re all shooting for — moderation. But if you think about it, moderation is really a vague term that can be interpreted any number of ways by virtually everyone.
Does moderation mean eating out only once a week or only when invited to dine with friends? And if you’re only eating out occasionally, should you eat whatever you want or focus on lower calorie options?
Look, I can’t tell you what moderation should mean to you. But I can offer up a few tricks for eating better when you do eat out. You know, if that’s what moderation means to you.
1. Don’t assume the salad is healthier.
Salad is usually touted as the reigning queen of the healthy food world, and I absolutely love a good salad. I have a side salad with my dinner literally every night, and on the nights we’re out of lettuce? Dinner just doesn’t feel like dinner.
Restaurant salads are a different story, though. Most are loaded with extra, high-calorie ingredients like cheese, meats, croutons, and heavy dressings. So don’t order a salad on the perception that anything piled on top of lettuce is an obviously better choice.
2. Get your to-go box at the same time as your food.
Once your food hits the table go ahead and ask your server for a to-go box. I don’t have to tell you that restaurant portion sizes are enormous. You know, I know, the crazy hippy lady on Facebook complaining about obesity rates know. We know.
That doesn’t stop us from scarfing down an entire serving platter of food. I know, because I’ve totally done it. By the time I start getting full it always seems like my waiter or waitress is mysteriously nowhere to be found, and if I finally get around to asking for a box I end up eating more while I wait for it to arrive. Do yourself a favor, get the box upfront.
3. Split the dessert.
I will not say “Don’t get dessert” because I am not about that life. I mean, I kind of am because I’m super cheap and have a deep repulsion to paying $8 for a single slice of cake, but overall I am in the “pro-cake” group.
Like most other foods found in restaurants, desserts are loaded with calories and probably a literal ton of sugar. Split the dessert with your friend/spouse/lover/weird Tinder date and you’ll feel better anyway.
Eating out can be tricky when you’re trying to eat healthier, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up one to enjoy the other. It also doesn’t mean that you should pick out the lowest-calorie, lowest-fat dishes on the menu and stick to those dishes, because if you’re not eating things you enjoy then you probably won’t stick to eating healthy for very long.
So ultimately, respect how you’re feeling and acknowledge that eating healthy doesn’t mean being perfect.
Writer Bio: Caitlin Lane lives in Tucson with her husband and two kids. An active writer and lazy runner, she is currently studying Japanese and Creative Writing at the University of Arizona. When she isn’t busy typing on her laptop, she’s probably busy drinking too much coffee.