It’s summer and for many of us that means planning as many weekend getaways as possible to escape the heat. Eating at new restaurants is fun! But you can easily consume your whole days’ worth of calories (and more) in just one meal if you’re not careful. Thankfully our friend Heidi Swan, a Certified Holistic Nutrition Practitioner, is sharing with us some of her favorite healthy restaurant hacks:
• Ask for Less Salt – Restaurants notoriously go sodium-overload on their meals so asking for your meal to be prepared with less salt is a great way to have a little control over this. It may take a couple extra minutes for your food to come out, but slashing the salt in your meal can make the difference between feeling like an eel or a pufferfish the next day. This is especially important if you eat out frequently.
• Reduce Sugar – It can be very easy to miss how much sugar is snuck in foods when eating out. Think your soy-ginger sauce is a good option with your meal? Think again! For most sauces at restaurants sugar is one of the main ingredients – not to mention a ton of sodium and fat. When you’re ordering and you see a dish prepared with a sauce (especially a cream based sauce) – ask for half the sauce. Often you can save yourself up to 200 calories!
• Ask for no bread or chips and salsa – How many times have you eaten somewhere where either bread or chips and salsa is brought out before the meal and then ten minutes and a cocktail later you find yourself saying “why did I eat so much chips and salsa?!” This can easily add up to 300 empty calories to your meal. Simply ask your server to not bring out any bread or chips and salsa – and personally I like to save those calories for the cocktails ☺
• Swap starchy carbs for greens – This is a great slim-down swap-out! When you see a menu item that is served over rice, or with mashed potatoes ask if they can replace with vegetables (greens preferably!) I know rice and potatoes are delicious, but they’re empty carbs that are quickly converted to sugar – and if you’re eating out often this can easily creep on unwanted pounds.
• Ask what kind of oil foods are cooked it – Many place use canola oil (Ca-NO-la) to cook their foods in. Canola oil wreaks havoc on your inflammation response which in turn leads your body to hold onto fat. Canola oil is made from Rapeseeds which are highly processed, bleached and put through chemical wash of hexane (gasp!) Hexane is a main ingredient in glue for shoes, and roofing. Nothing something I want my food cooked in! Particularly avoid fried foods – usual processed-oil culprits.
• Split meals – Most portion sizes at restaurants are 2-3x what a normal portion should be. Your meal could be quite healthy – but if it’s 3x a regular portion size, you’re getting 3x more calories than you actually need. You don’t have to get crazy restrictive to be at your optimal weight – but you need to be aware of how much you’re eating. Splitting a meal with a friend, or asking for half the meal to be boxed is a great way to curb this.
Bottom Line: It’s summer and obviously we are going to go out and enjoy ourselves – as we should! So I’m not saying hound your server every meal– BUT if you eat out frequently then these are things to really be aware of, it’s continual things like these that add up and do a number on your health.
About Heidi Swan
Heidi Swan is a Certified Holistic Nutrition Practitioner from the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts and NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist and Behavior Change Specialist. She focuses on educating clients how nutrition and digestion affects mental and physical health. Heidi moved to Phoenix after graduating with her business degree from University of Oregon and began working in the corporate world. Heidi always had a passion for nutrition and wellness, and after 4 years with lack of fulfillment from her office job, quit and began school at the Southwest Institute for Healing Arts to pursue her passion for helping people feel their best through nutrition and wellness.
Heidi is experienced in a wide range of nutritional services but has a special interest in the effects of nutrition and brain function, particularly anxiety and depression. Heidi believes that proper nutrition and digestion play an integrative role in mental wellbeing and is committed to helping her clients develop a unique nutrition plan and establish sustainable nutrition and lifestyle changes to meet their mental and physical needs. Heidi offers personalized meal plans, lifestyle changes, and support. Her services are also offered via Skype, for clients outside the metro Phoenix area.