Going out to eat with friends and family can be a nice change of pace from cooking at home. But large portion sizes and high-calorie restaurant foods often make it difficult to make healthy choices – and can hinder your recovery and performance goals. These recommendations will help you meet your athletic goals when you’re on the go!
Making healthy choices is easier if you know what to look for and aren’t afraid to make requests. Most restaurants are happy to make adjustments if you ask! Next time you’re checking out the menu, remember this:
- Choose foods that are steamed, grilled, baked or broiled instead of fried, au gratin, crispy, sautéed or stuffed.
- Foods cooked in olive, avocado or sunflower oil are healthier choices than foods cooked in butter.
Sauces and Dressings
- Ask for sauces and dressing on the side to control how much is added to your meal.
- Avoid creamy sauces and gravy.
- Opt for whole grains like whole wheat bread or pasta, brown rice, oats or quinoa instead of refined white grains.
- Substitute avocado for cheese, mustard for mayo, and vinegar-based dressings for creamy dressings.
- Say yes to water, unsweetened iced tea, low-fat milk or 100% fruit juice instead of sugar-sweetened beverages.
- Steer clear of drinks with added sugar, like smoothies, sweetened teas, milk-based sweetened coffee drinks, energy drinks, sodas and juices with added sweeteners.
Sides and Desserts
- Instead of fries, chips and onion rings, ask for crisp veggies or a salad on the side.
- Skip cookies, cakes and ice cream and satisfy your sweet tooth with fresh fruit instead.
Pro Tip: Ask for a to-go box when you place your order and pack up half of your meal as soon as it arrives. Save leftovers for the next day or for a recovery snack when you’re hungry again.
Take Your Time
Also, it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to tell your stomach that you are no longer hungry, so eat slowly. Fast eaters are often overeaters, while slow eaters tend to eat less and still feel satisfied. Why? Because it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to tell your stomach that you’re no longer hungry.
Slowing down is as easy as 1, 2, 3!
- Avoid doing other activities like watching TV, browsing social media or driving while eating. This will make it easier to pay attention to what you’re eating.
- Chew your food completely, taste each bite and put your utensils down between each bite to slow your pace.
- Pay attention to hunger levels throughout your meal and stop eating when you start to feel full.
Fast Food Restaurants
No matter where you’re eating, the food choices you make should fuel your body for performance and recovery. These examples provide suggestions for healthier options and tips for ordering at different styles of fast food restaurants.
Order a burrito bowl or grilled fish tacos with corn tortillas.
- Choose corn instead of flour tortillas
- Skip the chips
- Add guacamole and beans instead of sour cream and cheese
- Add fajita veggies
- Order a la carte
Try a chicken and veggie bowl.
- Choose brown instead of white rice
- Add extra veggies to your bowl or order them as a side
- Get sauce on the side
- Choose skinless, non-battered meats such as grilled chicken or grilled fish
Select a turkey sandwich.
- Most full-sized sandwiches prepared at a restaurant are around 500-900 calories (without a side)
- Go with whole grain breads instead of Italian or cheese breads
- Choose hummus and avocado instead of mayo or cheese-based spreads
- Get vinaigrette or house dressing instead of Caesar or ranch
- Add a side salad, fresh fruit or vegetable soup instead of chips and a cookie
Pick a fruit and veggie smoothie.
- Substitute Greek yogurt or extra fruit for frozen yogurt or sherbet
- Try water as the base instead of juice
- Add a scoop of protein powder to make it more well-balanced and increase satiety
- Choose an appropriate serving size for you
Try a small bowl of yogurt.
- Choose a small or regular serving instead of large
- Add fresh fruits, nuts, dark chocolate or shredded coconut instead of cookies and candy
- Skip whipped cream and syrups
Order an iced coffee or a low-fat café latte.
- Ask for skim or low-fat milk instead of whole
- Ask to leave out the sweetener and add a sprinkle of cinnamon
- For breakfast, choose oatmeal or a breakfast sandwich with egg and spinach instead of a muffin or croissant
- For a snack, try a Greek yogurt parfait, a seasonal fresh fruit bowl, string cheese or a hummus snack pack
Select a grilled chicken sandwich, snack wrap, salad or a single hamburger topped with veggies.
- Choose ketchup and mustard instead of sauce or mayo
- Choose a lettuce-wrapped burger to lower carb intake
- Skip the cheese and ask for avocado instead
- If you order a salad, ask for dressing on the side
- Add a side of sliced apples or baked potato wedges instead of french fries