Look up the menu in advance
You can easily access the menus of many restaurants online. This is a great way for you to check out what the restaurant has to offer before you get there. Aside from making sure that the place serves healthy options, you can also pre-plan what you are going to order. It is easier to make a healthier choice when you have more time to think about it.
Read the food descriptions
The descriptions of the food items on the menu are in fact very telling. Anything described as “crispy”, “creamy”, “buttery” (you get the idea), probably won’t do your waistline any good. Instead, look out for words like “grilled”, “boiled” and “baked”. As long as you pay close attention to what’s on the menu, you will be able to look past your temptations and make more informed choices.
Customise your order
Don’t be afraid to change up your order to make it healthier. Most eateries will be more than happy to assist you in getting your perfect healthy order. Ask for more portions of vegetables, swap your sides for fruits and greens or less salt.
Make an appetiser your main
Many restaurants serve appetisers such as pasta salads or sweet potato bites, which can easily be turned into a satisfying and filling main. They will help you exercise portion control and there are always plenty of vegetable-based options available. Steer clear of the deep-fried and cheesy ones and you’re good to go. If you’re famished, doubling up on the appetiser will still be able to keep your portion in check.
Request for condiments on the side
Some restaurants tend to go overboard when it comes to the seasoning and sauce. While the best way is to avoid condiments altogether, you can also ask for them to be served separately so that you can control how much goes into your food. Tip: use the “fork-dip” method where you dip your fork into the sauce to ensure you aren’t getting too much of it.
Skip the fancy beverages
While all the colourful beverages may look and sound appealing, they are often syrupy and loaded with empty calories. Plus, they won’t even do much to quench your thirst. Instead, ask for plain water and sip it throughout your meal. Water will also fill you up to ensure you do not overeat.
Ask for a seat away from the kitchen
Trust us, you really don’t need to be facing the aroma of the aesthetically-pleasing foods that are constantly coming out of the kitchen. This may make it tempting to change your order to something less healthy.
Pick the right ambience
Believe it or not, lighting and music may affect your mood for food. A US study published in the journal of Psychological Reports found that after making over a fast food restaurant with softer music and lightning, it led diners to consume 175 fewer calories while enjoying the food more. While it did not change what they ordered, they ate 18 per cent less. So opting for a restaurant with a more relaxed environment may help you with portion control
Sit in front of a mirror
By watching yourself eat, it will make you more conscious about what you’re putting into your body. According to a study published in the Journal of Association for Consumer Research on 185 undergraduates, those who ate a chocolate cake in the presence of a mirror found it less enjoyable. It suggests that being able to see yourself eat may make you find unhealthy foods less desirable.
Eat well before dining out
Have a filling meal with high satiety levels before eating out to ensure you aren’t starving while you’re ordering. It’s harder to make healthy choices when you’re famished.
Say no to the dessert
If it isn’t the hardest part about eating out – resisting the mouth-watering, decadent chocolate lava cake or that triple scoop sundae with all your favourite flavours. If you have gone so far to ensure that your meal is healthy, this can really be the deal-breaker if you cave in. Give it a miss and if you really must satisfy that sweet tooth of yours, go for a small portion of some low-fat frozen or greek yogurt on the way home. You won’t regret this, promise!
Text: Claudia Tan/SHAPE