How to Stay Healthy While Eating Out

After I hit publish on this post, I am leaving my parents’ house to drive back to my apartment in Albany. I’m a little sad, but I also miss my own bed (and my gym!) It’s been a great mini-vacation. It definitely went by too fast, though. I can’t believe Christmas is over! Until next year!

So, while I’m driving, here’s a great guest post from the fabulous Carly on how to make the right choices while eating out. Take it away, Carly!

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It was Dec. 18, 2010. Seven days before Christmas. And I was standing in the middle of Target, panicking, just beginning my Christmas shopping. Crowds of people swarmed around me, I still have three other stores to get to, and I didn’t eat breakfast. Suddenly, I felt (and heard) the unmistakable rumble of a hungry stomach.

Hopefully, you are nothing like the procrastinator I can be, but whether you are or not, we all sometimes find ourselves out and about … and suddenly hungry. In an ideal world, we would all eat a sensible yet filling breakfast, and have sensible yet filling snacks packed in a cooler we carry around in the backseat of our car. In the real world, it doesn’t always work out quite like that.

Dining on the fly doesn’t have to mean gobbling down the large order of onion rings from Burger King. If you’re hungry and options are limited, don’t panic. Try these following tips:

  • What, exactly, are your options? Thanks to the iPhone (or your smart phone of choice), you can look up nearby restaurants. Maybe the Golden Arches are hiding a small vegetarian restaurant, right behind it. If you have access to the technology, use it. And if not, ask a few of the employees of the shops you’re in. When I was in college, I worked at the local mall … and while it was easy to skip up to the food court and buy fries on break, it was just as easy to run to the diner across the street and get some steamed vegetables. If you look, you will most likely find.
  • Choose carefully. Continuing the line from above, if you have a choice between a standard fast food place and a restaurant like a diner or a vegetarian/vegan place, choosing the latter will make it a lot easier to stick to healthy choices.
  • Wherever you end up, go veggie. We all hear horror stories of those salads that have three times the calories of a Big Mac, but most of that comes from common sense. (If you drown the lettuce in ranch and bacon bits, of course the calories are going to add up.) Throw out the bacon bits and croutons, and opt for a low-fat and/or vinaigrette-based dressing. (Also, restaurants should have nutritional information either posted or readily available, so you should always feel comfortable enough to ask for this information.)
  • Minimize. A burger and fries can be a sensible, if not the most nutritious, choice. But steer clear of the number one … and definitely don’t super size! Ask for a kid’s meal. Some chains have the option to switch out the fries for fruit, and the soda for milk or juice. You will also get a cool toy, which is still fun. Admit it.
  • Just eat it. Do you really want the large order of onion rings? Even after admitting to yourself that you are planning on that third glass of wine at the dinner party later? Go for it. Will you regret it? Maybe, maybe not. I personally would go for the fries over the onion rings, but life is too short to spend too much time fretting over these decisions. Just know that if you make the large order of onion rings a regular thing, your life may really be too short. It’s all about moderation.

See, that wasn’t so hard now, was it? And just think … once you get the decision of where to eat out of the way, you can get back to what’s really important: Shopping! So take a deep breath and don’t stress. If you keep in mind that it is just one day out of a lifetime of healthy choices, you’ll be able to make a wise choice without expanding your waistline.

Carly, a 24-year-old healthy lifestyle enthusiast, is training for her first half-marathon. When not running, she loves reading, writing and cooking along with an abiding passion for yoga and Miniature Schnauzers. Carly blogs at Swim, Run, Om.

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  1. I too always try to look up nutrition information before I go out somewhere. But if I find myself out without that information, these are great tips!

  2. Y’know, I’ve heard that last one before — they say that if you really, really want something, you should just have it, but try to have a small amount, ’cause if you want it long enough, you’ll end up gorging on it later.

  3. i like the last point about moderation. we are too quick to judge and label our foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’– variety and moderation are the key!!

    wishing you a happy healthy and safe new years eve!

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