One of the biggest struggles to being healthy is balancing the fine line between eating out and eating well. Since you can't see the kitchen cook in action at a restaurant, you're not aware of measurements and portions as much as you would be at home. Even seemingly healthy choices can sometimes be just as unhealthy as fast food. Yes, you may have ordered salmon—which is a very healthy option—but maybe that Wild Alaskan was doused in butter and cream before it was pan-fried.
This should not deter you from dining out. I am a firm believer in living a balanced lifestyle. Being too extreme and too rigid with diet and exercise can be very isolating and, quite frankly, boring. It is so important to go out, enjoy, and have fun! It’s integral to a happy lifestyle to engage with friends and strangers and the back-and-forth banter that comes with sharing a meal together is irreplaceable.
Some of the most beautiful and memorable moments in my life occurred while drinking a cocktail—or trying an authentically Italian, carb- and dairy-infused dish abroad. Despite having to unbutton the top button to my jeans, I wouldn’t take those moments back for anything in the world. How very Eat, Pray, Love.
Just recently, I reunited with some of my closest friends for the grand opening of the chic new Gastropub The Village in Studio City, California, owned by celebrity chef Frank Leon. He’s notorious for being one of Ellen Degeneres’s favorites. There were two things that I especially love about this menu. The first is that it offers small plates. For those of you who have problems with portion control and eating too much, too fast, small plates are a great way to pace yourself and keep the portions bite-size. Also, I love their vegan and vegetarian options—delicious alternatives that enable you to implement a lot of healthy grains and veggies into your meal without feeling like you’re missing out on the good stuff. Of course I indulged and ordered short ribs with white polenta and bordelaise sauce,—stop me from drooling now—but I was able to share with my friends. After the last bite, I was completely full from the orders of fiber-filled kale and quinoa salad! The night was the perfect combination of being healthy and meeting good looking men! I was a happy camper!
Sadly, most restaurants, especially outside of Los Angeles, are not as mindful. But no matter where you are, and no matter where you go, you can approach every new menu with confidence by sticking with these six tips.
1. Choose lean meats (or fish) that are broiled, roasted, or grilled.
With the understanding that most places do not serve local or organic food, choose leaner options such as fish and skinless chicken and turkey breast when craving meat. If you hunger for red meat, the leanest cuts come from the loin. Some great alternatives to steak are buffalo (also known as bison) or a pork tenderloin. Be sure these meats are either broiled, roasted, or grilled, cooked without butter or oil, if possible.
2. Opt for steamed, raw, sauteed vegetables.
Nutrient-dense raw vegetables are always your best option, but for some, eating uncooked veggies at a restaurant sounds as torturous as fingers scraping down a chalkboard. So if you prefer some heat, order them lightly steamed or sauteed. Again, be sure they are not cooked with any butter or margarine at all! In fact, proper sauteing should be cooked with a broth.
3. Request dressing on the side.
Whether a salad or a cooked dish, ask to have your dressing put on the side. Often times, the side serving is much less than what they would have actually put on the dish originally. Also, try to only use half of that side dressing, if dressing is even needed.
4. Remember: No fried anything!
Sorry friends. Fried is not your friend. Simple as that. Fried foods are linked to increased caloric consumption, increased weight gain, possible heart disease and cancer. Stay away from it!
5. Ask about portion size.
Large portions are a serious epidemic in this country and it is very apparent when dining out. Ask your server how big the dish is before you order it. Can it be shared? If ordering meat or fish, is it more than three or four ounces? If so, ask the person dining with you if they would like to share the dish. Or, ask the server to only serve you half of the dish and to box up the other half to take home with you.
6. Hold the salt.
When ordering your meal, ask the server to not add salt to your dish, and don’t add any table salt to your meal when it hits the table. An increase in salt intake has been linked directly to high blood pressure, which is one of the leading causes of strokes and heart disease. But feel free to put pepper on your dish—it’s high in antioxidants, low in sodium, and a good source of manganese, iron, fiber, and vitamin K. In fact, pepper it up!
Kit Rich is Los Angeles-based fitness trainer with endless exercise and nutritional know-how. Hollywood's hottest stars are addicted to Kit's unique, multi-disciplined approach that combines cardio, yoga, Pilates, and weight training. Kit's clients are immediately taken by her funny and honest approach to health and fitness. She treats her clients as she treats herself, "with a hard challenge, sensibility, sensitively, and a good laugh." Follow Kit on Twitter @kitrichfitness.