At a time in our lives that is dominated by long hours and incessant eating out, it can be hard to hold on to healthy habits. And since there's no way we want to skip out on happy hour or the rooftops as soon as it gets a tad warmer, I started searching for a nutritionist to give me the skinny on staying healthy while going out.
I came upon Nikki Ostrower, a nutritional expert and the proud owner of NAO Nutrition, and of course, I just had to strike up a conversation. As a recovering anorexic, bulimic and compulsive night eater, Nikki knows a thing or two — OK, 11 — about navigating menus to get a nutritious meal while still having a hell of a good time. So, here are 11 ways to stay healthy while dining out:
1. Skip the salt.
This one is a little bit easier said than done because more often than not, people eat too much salt without even realizing it. Salt can be a tricky culprit against our health because it raises blood pressure, which is a major factor in heart attacks, heart failure and strokes.
So the next time you head out, just kindly ask for no extra salt, please. Don't even think about getting handsy with the shaker on the table.
2. Avoid anything that says "creamy."
Think about it: When you hear the word creamy, what comes to mind? Butter? Heavy cream? Cream of mushroom soup, perhaps?
What do all these things have in common, apart from their delightful texture? High fat content. As tough as it may be, train your eyes to veer away from this descriptor and opt for items that are steamed, poached or sauteed.
3. Avoid the sugary cocktails and sodas.
But, I love Dirty Shirleys. Well, don't we all? We're not saying you have to cut them out completely, but more often than not, go for the vodka soda or a simple glass of H2O to quench your thirst. Hey, one or two in, and you may not even mind the lack of sugary taste.
4. Call ahead of time to see if they will do substitutions.
One of the biggest disappointments is trying to be healthy only to be told that, no, you may not have that delicious side of spinach in substitution for fries. By calling ahead of time, you can avoid this hassle and ensure the venue will meet your dietary needs.
5. Choose ahead of time.
Before heading out to meet your friends, take a peek at the restaurant's menu online. By choosing your dish beforehand you will be more capable of sidestepping the urge to order that heaping dish of pasta you'll see as soon as you walk in.
6. Skip the appetizer and just get an entree.
Let's be real: How often do we actually finish both dishes? Rarely. That's not to say it's impossible, but it's more so a once in a blue moon thing. When trying to stick to a healthy lifestyle when going out, pick one delicious entree, and you'll forget they even offered appetizers.
7. Tell your friends ahead of time.
By letting your friends know ahead of time that you're trying to maintain a healthy diet, they'll be less likely to urge you to try the mac n cheese they're swooning over, and they'll be more likely to hold you accountable.
8. Skip the bread basket.
That's a tough one. I know. Sadly, carbs are not our best friends, and although these bad boys are free, that doesn't mean the calories are.
9. Share or skip dessert.
Sugar in moderation can be good for you, so order it once in a while or dig in with a friend. But in all honesty, I'd rather abide by the other 10 rules religiously and opt for that perfectly Snap story-worthy cupcake than go without.
10. Be conscious of your salad dressing.
It's always ironic to me that this is something we should have to worry about. I'm already eating a salad as my meal, so isn't that enough? Sadly, no. That being said, when the server asks for your preference, be sure to opt for something lemon, olive oil or balsamic based. You'll be cutting the calories, but not the taste.
11. Get baked or grilled meats and fish.
Put as simply as possible, don't even think about getting fried food. Now, I'm sure your mouth is watering, so prepare for your next meal out and remember to hold yourself accountable. But most importantly, remember to still have loads of fun.