Updated: Oct 30, 2019
Oh, how I love exploring new restaurants and cafes! Whether I’m on vacation, tired of cooking, or out on a dinner date, eating at restaurants is such a fun and exciting way to try new foods and socialize.
Whether you have dietary restrictions and allergies or are trying to stick to a “healthy” diet, eating out can cause a bit of confusion and anxiety.
What’s the healthiest things to order?
What kind of oil is this cooked in?
Is there dairy or gluten in that sauce?
How healthy really is this?
Will the menu even have something on it that I want?
These are questions that I used to ask in my head whenever I went to try a new place, and they may be things that you’re worrying about too.
No matter if you go out for lunch every day, travel for work without access to a kitchen, or are trying a new cafe in your neighborhood, my tips below will help to guide you so that you feel:
confident and stress-free when ordering
content and satisfied with your meal
nourished and happy when leaving
Love these tips? Let me know by connecting with my on Instagram @kaleandkravings!
Look up the menu before hand. If you have any sort of anxiety about going out to eat - whether you have allergies and intolerances or you’re working on combatting your food fears - looking at the menu before you arrive can help to ease your nerves. This way you can make sure that there will be something on the menu that works with your digestive system, your mood, and your eating habits, and you won’t be stuck wondering if you’re going to leave the meal hungry. I also love looking at the menu before just to get excited - food is FUN and a huge source of creativity for me, and restaurant menus supply me with a lot of inspo for future recipes.
Be unapologetic about asking questions. NO ONE (not the server, not your date, not your friends) cares about what you order as much as you do. If you’re wondering whether a dish has an ingredient that you’d rather not eat, then ASK! There’s no point in being embarrassed to ask questions. You’re not being annoying or high maintenance. It is your waiter’s job to help you with the menu, so ask away! If you’re worried about your company judging you, DON’T! They’re too busy thinking about teir own order or the gossip about the weekend drama that they’re about to tell you. Don’t apologize for being “difficult” - because you’re not - and take responsibility for your body and the way in which you choose to fuel it.
Load up on greens before bread. Everyone lovesss a good bread basket to start off a meal - duh! If you notice that starting a meal with heavy carbs makes you feel a little sluggish and sleepy (happens to me!) then try to start your meal with some fresh greens in a salad or appetizer. Save some bread to eat with your main meal after you’ve given your body a good portion of veggies. However, if this tiny recommendation feels like a restrictive “rule” to you, feel free to ignore it and eat all the bread that your heart desires! ;)
Assess your mood. Sometimes we forget this simple concept - eat what you’re in the mood for!! If I’m traveling and have been eating out a lot, I’m usually in the mood for a meal that is similar to what I would make at home - smoothies, rainbow bowls, salads, veggie rice stir fries, etc. In that instance, I would probably order something that isn’t necessarily unique or special to that spot. However, if I’m in the mood for a special dish that I know is hard to replicate, but may not be as “healthy” or “nourishing”, then I go for that!! I loveeee trying veggies burgers on gluten free buns, fancy pancakes, artfully beautiful açai bowls, and cozy pastas when I go out. I don’t care that it’s not as nourishing as one of my 100-ingredient rainbow bowls, because I know that an exciting and fun new dish will satisfy my curiosity, taste buds, and cravings. Once again though, sometimes I opt for a boring “classic” meal because that's what my body needs! Both options work, and being able to identify your mood will ensure that you leave the restaurant satisfied and content.
Go halvsies. Let’s say you’re in the mood for BOTH a superfood packed salad and a delicious piece of homemade lasagna...what to do?! If you’re with a friend who is also in the same boat, ask to split both meals! I often split a salad to start and get my own, more “interesting” entree so that I get a serving of everything I’m in the mood for. I especially love doing this for breakfast - you can bet on me getting a smoothie or egg dish for myself and sharing pancakes or french toast with a friend...I just can’t resist, and I also don’t need to! If no one wants to go halvsies with you, you can always order 2 things and ask for a box to bring home as soon as the meals are brought out to avoid overeating. #LeftoversRock!
Rely on sides. Side garden salads and sides of sautéed veggies are a GO-TO for me at most restaurants. If no one wants to split with me and I’m not able to store leftovers, I always ask for a side of veggies to accompany my meal. I have a huge appetite, so these extra sides help me stay full and satisfy my veggie necessities. Also, if I’m at a place with very minimal dairy free and gluten free options, I build a meal from the sides menu! This usually includes a small salad, some cooked veggies, rice or potatoes, and avocado. It may not be the most interesting meal, but it does the trick when I’m in a pickle!
Bathroom break! Many people have learned to ignore their hunger cues and push through a meal in order to clean the plate clean, no matter when they actually feel full. If you’re distracted by chatting with your meal companions, busy checking your phone, or simply not aware of when you’re getting full, it can be super easy to zip through a meal without assessing your level of satiety. In order to bring some more mindfulness to your meal, take a forced breather from the table and go for a quick bathroom break. This will give your body a few minutes to take a break from eating and register how much more food you want.
Phone jail. As mentioned, phones at meals can be super distracting in so many ways. They can take away from your time spent socializing, add distractions to your mindful eating habits, induce stress while eating, etc! No matter if you’re eating alone or with others, a phone jail is always a great idea. Ask everyone to put their phones face down and stacked in a place on the table or a chair where they’ll be out of sight and out of mind. This will help to keep your mind and body feeling happy and stress free while enjoying your meal out! A stressed mind while eating can lead to a stressed digestive system, and no one wants to leave the restaurant with indigestion because you got a stressful work email during meal time!
Recognize the reality of the situation. Alright soooo let’s be real - one meal will not change your body. One plate of sweet potato fries and a burger won’t make you gain 10 pounds. One day of traveling and eating at restaurants with no salads on the menu won’t shrivel up your cells. One day without your adaptogens and powders and potions won’t ruin your life. One meal is not that powerful!!! So there’s no need to have anxiety about your time eating out. The reality is that eating out is an amazing way to try new things, expand your palette, add a sense of adventure to your day, catch up with an old or new friend, and enjoy your day! If you are someone who eats out every single day or travels for work and doesn’t have access to a kitchen, then I recommend finding a strategy for ordering that works best for your body (maybe stick to eating mostly meals that you would typically eat at home and go for the unique/more indulgent dish when you’re really in the mood). At the end of the day, a happy and calm mind leads to a happy and loved body, so always prioritize your mental health and choose to eat from a place of love.
Tip well. This is getting into healthy financial living, but I really think it deserves a place on this list. When you tip well, this signals to your mind and the Universe that you have a few extra dollars to spare, you know that you are financially abundant, and you trust that the money you invest and put into circulation in the economy will come back to you in an even greater amount. No matter how the service was, tip a little more than you normally would. This is one of my favorite tips to manifest more money, and there are way more tips where that came from! Download my FREE GUIDE on How to Manifest $100 in 7 Days here!
And there you have it: 10 Healthy Tips for Eating at Restaurants!
If you love this guidance, please let me know by connecting on Instagram @kaleandkravings!