The Dining Out Dilemma

“Nothing – not a conversation, not a handshake or even a hug- establishes friendship so forcefully as eating together.”

— Jonathan Safran Foer

With Valentine’s day come and past over this weekend and a lot of people spending time with their friends and loved ones, I thought it would be good to write about some of the dilemmas we face when trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle while dining out. And it can be quite the challenge; for Valentine’s day and just about any other holiday we have.

According to restaurant.org, in 2018 30 percent of Americans dined out on Valentine’s day! That is a lot of people that have dined out and indulged on one of the sweetest days (and we aren’t even counting the chocolate and candies in this!).

The average meal served at a restaurant consists of 1,205 calories. For me, this is basically my whole days worth of calories! Portion and serving sizes have boomed over the last twenty years. In fact, they have increased anywhere from 27 and 60 percent in some restaurants and locations. Not to mention all the free refills on those sugary fizzy drinks that we could possibly consume in one sitting. It seriously adds up.

But all is not lost on the plight of eating out. These days a lot of national food chains and restaurants are coming around to the idea that their customers want more healthy meals.

Restaurants are trying to change their menus to offer more healthy and lower calorie options. Ruby Tuesday offers a few things on their menu dubbed “Fit and Trim”, Applebees offers a “Lighter Fare” portion on their menu and even Perkins and Village Inn are being mindful with mentioning lower calorie and healthier alternatives on their menus as well.

But there are more fast casual chains that are starting to open up with healthier alternatives with more variety than the typical cheeseburger and fries:

  • Noodles & Company has several different menu options for noodles. Their Zucchini Truffle Mac contains 510 calories for a large and just a mere 200 calories for a small. And to be honest, even their small bowls are quite filling. The Med Salad bowl has 390 calories for a large and only 250 for a small bowl. And it’s fast casual so you don’t even have that long of a wait to enjoy your tasty meal!
  • While MADgreens is a bit smaller, still up and coming out of Arizona and Colorado, they are good at what they do. From grain bowls, salads to wraps, they have anything and everything healthy and satisfying. I personally loved going there when I still lived in Colorado. With their regular sized Athena Salad bowl, which is filled with romaine, red onions, olives, tomatoes, feta and cucumbers, it is packed with only 363 calories for a very filling meal.
  • Even Chipotle has been offering more and more healthy menu options, especially with their easy-to-customize meals. If you go on to their nutrition calculator, you can easily put together a meal beforehand to see what your calories and macros come out to be, before you even head out the door!

While Valentine’s Day is a day of love and cherishing the one we’re with, it’s just as important to love and cherish ourselves with still trying to be mindful about what we’re putting into our bodies. I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine’s Day, whether it be with a spouse or partner, with your friends, or even with your cat. Spread the love and love yourself especially.

Here are some quick dining out tips:

  • Before you go out to eat at your particular choice of restaurant, always take a sneak peak online to look at their nutritional facts. Not only does it save time for you when ordering, you’ll know exactly how many calories you’re eating before you get it.
  • Plan ahead with your calories! If you know you are going to eat a larger meal at some point in the day at a restaurant, try to plan your other meals accordingly to what fits in your budget.
  • If you can muster up the strength, save half your portion before you begin eating and ask for a to-go box with your meal. You can always save it for later and enjoy it a second time around.
  • If you have the option of a salad, why not take it? If you fill yourself up on that delicious salad, you won’t be able to eat the rest of your meal in one sitting.

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