There are more and more restaurants opening all across the world each year, making it easier than ever to travel and eat out. But what if there isn’t a healthy option nearby? Keep in mind that almost any good restaurant can usually accommodate special meal requests and in fact, some chefs enjoy the challenge. While dining out can be a heart-warming and pleasurable, here are a few pointers to “health” up your dining experience.
1. Call ahead and ask about having a meal specially prepared for you, and about any healthy options – Some restaurants will even provide special meals if given enough notice.
2. If you aren’t able to call ahead for requests, you may have to negotiate at the restaurant – Look at the menu first to see if anything will work. Steamed, baked or broiled foods without oil or seasoning if possible are your healthiest options. Try to order your salads with dressing on the side or no dressing at all. Ask for any sauces on the side as well. Don’t be afraid to ask your server for viable options and go from there. Sometimes chefs will even create an impromptu special plate for you.
3. If you plan on eating at any establishment regularly, get to know the owner and chef – They will will often make an extra effort to accommodate regular customers and even add certain items within reason.
4. Take a favorite dressing and seasoning with you – That way you can dress up a simple plate and feel less deprived.
5. Protect your gut – When planning to eat out, try taking some probiotics or enzymes just before leaving and have some with you to take post-meal. Keep in mind that even the healthiest restaurants may fudge on their ingredients (especially oils and sweeteners) or serve food that may not necessarily agree with you. Taking probiotics both strengthens your digestion and improves your immune system.
6. Try eating a small meal just before you leave – This takes the edge off of hunger pains and helps you make better choices once you are at the restaurant.
7. Drink a lot of water prior to and once you are seated at the restaurant – Again this helps take the edge off of hunger and helps you make better choices. Ordering a healthy beverage first and skipping the chips and bread helps as well. Also ask for lemon or lime with your beverage. Lemon and lime contain many minerals, vitamins and pectin which help fight off hunger.
8. This is the hard one: skip dessert – Most restaurants even many health restaurants serve desserts that contain high levels of refined sugar and empty calories. This interferes with and delays digestion especially after a protein meal. It also sends your blood-sugar levels spiraling and further burdens your system. Even “freshly-made” or “in-house” desserts are usually laden with refined sugar unless stated otherwise. If you do order dessert, try to order one that is gluten-free and less obviously sweet and don’t be shy about consulting with your waiter for viable options. If there are none, try ordering herbal tea (caffeine-free) with a touch of honey or “carminative” teas such as cinnamon, licorice, ginger and anise seeds which not only taste good but also help you digest your food. I also suggest opting for fresh fruit rather than dessert although a nice cup of caffeine-free tea is the best option after eating a large meal.