How to Select Delicious, Yet Nutritious Options in a Restaurant
We all love to indulge at a restaurant every once in a while, especially in The Villages® community. There are over 60 restaurants to enjoy in our three town squares, and even more in the surrounding neighborhoods. Not to mention, many of our social activities are held in a dining room with appetizers, entrees and alcohol readily available.
It can be tough to balance this exciting lifestyle with nutritious eating. It’s not impossible though! Here are 10 ways you can make healthier decisions while dining out, and still enjoy a tasty life here in The Villages®.
- Research Before You Go – Nowadays, most restaurants have their menu posted online. This is a great resource for you to research healthy options in advance. If you aren’t sure what to order, call ahead and ask the hostess for recommendations or if they will accommodate special requests.
- Pass on the Bread and/or Chips – Before you sit down, tell the hostess that you’d prefer to pass on the free bottomless bread bowl or endless chips. If they don’t bring it to the table, it won’t be a temptation for you! Even though these items are free, they can add over 300 empty calories to your meal.
- Start with a Veggie-packed Salad – Get your greens and veggies in first by ordering a salad. It will also satiate you enough, and reduce the risk of overeating when the main course is served.
- Order an Appetizer-sized Portion – Restaurant portions are much larger than what you would eat at home. Oftentimes, the appetizer portions are just right! Just be mindful not to fill up on fried items.
- Share Entrées with Friends – If you do opt for a main course, perhaps share it with a spouse or friend. Both of you will eat less, feel lighter and be more likely to enjoy an evening stroll together later.
- Take Home a To-Go Box – Another option is to ask the server to split your meal before it’s even served, putting half of it in a to-go box for you. This will prevent you from overeating on a main dish – not to mention the added bonus of leftovers!
- Choose Wholesome Carbs – When choosing bread, opt for whole grains like wheat, rye and pumpernickel. Choose brown and wild rice over white rice, or vitamin-packed veggies, like sweet potatoes or carrots, over vitamin-deficient options, like French fries.
- Choose Lean Proteins – When choosing a meat entrée, select a leaner option like chicken or turkey breast, white fish, or filet. Look for keywords like “flank,” “broiled,” “grilled,” “boiled,” “baked” or “braised” to signal a cooking process that limits added fats. Avoid words like “fried,” “battered,” “crispy” or “smothered.”
- Avoid Creamy Sauces and Gravies – Sauces like alfredo or béchamel are loaded with heavy whipping cream, butter and salt. They add lots of calories to a meal, without giving you a satisfied feeling, which can lead to overeating. Avoid words like “creamy,” “buttery,” “bisque” and “gravy.” Instead, ask for water and citrus-based sauces for a lighter, yet delicious option.
- Skip Dessert – Dessert is a quick way to add another 300 empty calories to your meal, so it’s best to avoid it. If you have a sweet tooth and can’t resist temptation, opt for a small bowl of fruit or berries to satisfy the craving.
When you take the time to learn about the food you are eating and practice making healthy choices, it gets easier and easier to live a happy, healthy life here in The Villages®.
To get more helpful tips and guided techniques from a wellness educator and/or Registered Dietitian, register for one of our free courses. We offer classes year-round to the entire community. From nutrition basics to weekly meal planning, we have the tools and resources you need to live your healthiest life ever!
Explore our free courses in the Learning Center. You do not need to be a patient to attend, so don’t forget to register you and your friend online.