Mobile Eating – A Series on Eating Away from Home, Part 2 of 3

1. “It’s hard to eat well when my colleagues or business partners choose restaurants with hearty menus with few lighter options. “

  • Research before what restaurants you could suggest that have a mix of menu options or enough options for you to choose something.  Then you don’t have to state your eating goals and can just make choices without making a big deal of it.

  • Plan to succeed! Most restaurants have their menus online. Calories are required to be listed for any restaurant with more than 20 locations nationwide.

  • Look before you go and narrow the menu down to some appetizers, entrées and beverage choices that will help you meet your health goals. This eliminates the high-stress situation of trying to figure out what to eat in front of others and a waiter. 

  • Examples: Sushi, Greek, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Mongolian Stir Fry, Sandwich and Soup Restaurants, and many large chain restaurants have lighter options

2. Be careful with beverage choices and filling up on liquid calories unknowingly.  Most restaurant cups are 20 – 32 ounces.  If choosing sweet tea or regular soda this equates to 240 – 370 calories if you have no refill.

  • Decide if you really enjoy the drink or if you can choose lower calorie options such as unsweet tea, water or sparkling water.

  • If you really love the sweet tea or regular soda, order the smallest size with no refills. 

  •  Consider black coffee or hot brewed tea if it complements the meal or if you plan to sit and talk awhile after the meal.

  • Diet sodas can help reduce your overall liquid calories, but many people like to be cautious with artificial sweeteners (whole blog post on this topic to come in the future).

3. Appetizers (especially the chips and salsa or bread) can sabotage a whole meal! Your waiter brings a big container of unending chips and salsa before the meal and you end up eating an extra 200-300 calories you didn’t really want or enjoy. 

  •  Wait to eat the free appetizers until your meal is delivered or until 5 – 10 minutes after you have ordered your meal.  This will lessen how many chips or breadsticks you eat. 

  • You do not have to eat a certain amount of appetizers if a colleague or friend orders them.  You can choose to eat a small amount or suggest an appetizer that everyone could enjoy or experiment with a new one (shrimp and cocktail sauce, lettuce wraps).

  • IF you love the appetizers at a restaurant, make a game plan around your food choices.  Choose a lighter meal (salad, more vegetables, broth based soup) if you really want the appetizer and then enjoy it knowing you planned for it!

4. “I have no idea how to choose a food item quickly at a restaurant.  Especially if there are no pictures or if this is a new place.”

 Clues to indicate the nutritional quality of the meal:

  • Words to look for: baked, broiled, steamed, grilled, blackened, roasted, braised, seared, fresh, light

  • Words to avoid: fried, cream, breaded, battered, smothered, rich and creamy, buttery, au gratin, cheese filled, scalloped, dipped, pan-fried, crispy, drizzled, stuffed

    • Higher calorie meals tend to include pasta, cheese, cream sauces, breading.

  • Here is a link of even more complex menu and food descriptive terms and their definitions.

The next blog post will provide some more helpful tips including strategies for eating out with food allergies or intolerances.



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