How to Eat Healthy Even When You Dine Out

September 12, 2019

"Restaurant food is often fried, loaded with salt or fat, or comes in absolutely huge portions. But you can still eat out and make healthy choices."

Eating a healthy diet away from can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be. On today’s live show with Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD holistic nutritionist, she’ll cover healthy ways to dine out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Learn Dr. Nancy’s top tips to ensure we make the healthiest and tastiest choices when dining out. Don’t miss this fun and informative show!

Video Highlights 

  • 09:38: Dining Out Trends
  • 21:39: Tips to Make Healthy Choices When Dining Out: Breakfast
  • 29:36: Restaurant Omelette at Home Recipe
  • 37:54: Tips to Make Healthy Choices When Dining Out: Lunch and Dinner
  • 52:18: Wrap-Up

So, let’s talk about something we can all relate to — dining out! We all love going out to dinner from time to time, for a variety of reasons: even if you love to cook, who doesn’t love having someone cook a great meal for them and then not have to worry about cleaning up afterwards? A great meal and no dishes, sounds like a dream come true, right?  

Eating out with family is also a great time to relax, share some laughs, and spend some quality family time together. Looking at our eating habits, it seems like most of us feel the same way.

In fact, The average household spends an average of $3,000 per year on dining out — that’s a staggering 95% more than Americans spent in 2005!

There’s nothing wrong with eating out from time to time, but it’s also true that nearly 75% of the population is overweight or obese, and 90% of us are deficient essential vitamins and minerals, and levels of people suffering from the effects of chronic inflammation are at record levels. 

So… can we really dine out and be healthy too?  

That’s the focus of today’s show: healthy ways to dine out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  First, let’s look at some popular dining trends — including the surprising list of foods we order most. Then, Dr. Nancy will share her tips to ensure you are making the healthiest choices when you and your family are dining out, and share one of her favorite restaurant quality breakfast recipes you can make at home.

Dining Out Trends

Did you know that 50% of Americans hate to cook? That’s half of us! No wonder we love eating out. 

A recent survey of over 15 million people in America showed us some of the hottest dining  trends, which are:

  • Bean burrito (276% more popular than last year)
  • Poke (205% more popular than last year)
  • Chicken slider (189% more popular than last year)
  • Baby back pork rib (165% more popular than last year)
  • Chicken burritos (164% more popular than last year)

Interesting, right? Here are some more interesting dining out trivia.

Do you think men and women order differently when going out to eat?  The answer is a resounding yes! In fact, over 70% of people said they’ve actually argued with their significant other about where and what to eat when dining out.  Here’s what survey’s say are the favorites:

  • Top Food Choices Among Men: Burgers (31%) / BBQ (24%) / Chinese (23%)
  • Top Food Choices Among Women: Women: Chinese (32%) / Mexican (27%) / Burgers (25%)

And finally, we found what might be the absolute most unhealthy meal served at any restaurant in the country: the Whole Hog Burger from Uno Pizzeria & Grill

The burger alone has a whopping 2,690 calories including: 77 g saturated fat, 6,510 mg sodium…. To put that in perspective, that's more calories in just one burger then you should eat in a whole day, not to mention fat and sodium! It contains 3 times your recommended daily allowance of fat, 6 times the amount of saturated fat you should eat in a day, and over 3 times the sodium you should have in a day. And that doesn’t even take into consideration the fries that come on the side!  

Tips to Make Healthy Choices When Dining Out: Breakfast

Ah breakfast — the most important meal of the day! Even when grabbing breakfast on the go or at a restaurant, you really want to make sure you have a well-rounded, nutritious start to your day. Ideally, your breakfast will have some type of complex carbohydrates for energy, protein to  help build and fuel your muscles, and some healthy fats and fiber to keep you feeling full as you start your day.

Beware though when eating breakfast out, because bacon and sausage are high in fat and calories; eggs, while good for you, are often fried in butter or lard, and even foods considered to be “healthy” like oatmeal or avocado toast can be prepared with whole milk or excess salt , sugar, or unhealthy fats — so it helps to be aware of the hidden fats and calories hiding in some of your favorite breakfast foods!

Dr. Nancy’s top breakfast tips include:

Skip the Meat

As we just mentioned, that bacon and sausage are high in unsaturated fat and calories — most breakfast meats are. So just skip them altogether! In fact, if you’ve downloaded her anti-inflammatory eating plan, you know we recommend cutting all these meat out of your diet for good. They might have some protein, but the amount of unhealthy fat and fat per serving, just doesn’t make them nutritionally sound choices. Plus, they are most likely not grass-fed or organically raised, which means they could contain chemicals, pesticides, and hormones that further contribute to inflammation in your body.

Opt for Whole-grain or Rye Toast 

And skip the bagel with cream cheese, danish, donut, or other pastries. Most commercially prepared baked goods are loaded with saturated fat, sugar, white flour, and trans fats, all of which fuel inflammation, cause unstable blood sugar levels, and add excess calories to your diet.  Oh, and order your toast dry, or with butter on the side: that way, if you absolutely have to have your butter, you can add a little bit yourself.  And don’t be afraid to ask for other options. Many restaurants now have gluten-free bread and don’t be surprised if they carry almond butter too.  Gluten-free toast with hummus is awesome for breakfast too!

Custom-Order Your Omelets

One fantastic breakfast option to order is an omelet, but not any omelet off the menu — custom make your omelet. Most omelets are made with three whole eggs, cheese, meat, and sometimes vegetables. Most restaurants let you sub ingredients or customize your options. Here’s what Dr. Nancy orders: a 2 eggwhite omelet with one whole egg, no cheese, with added veggies like mushrooms, broccoli, spinach, and onions, and a side of avocado and fresh fruit. You can custom make your own omelet with tons of fresh vegetables and even black beans, but avoid cheese, skip the meat, and avoid nightshade vegetables, including tomatoes and peppers. Skip the side of home fries and hash browns too!

Restaurant Omelette at Home Recipe

You can also make a restaurant-quality omelet, just like the one above. It’s not that hard, if you can scramble eggs, you can make this omelet! 

Here’s all you need to do:

  • Crack your eggs into a bowl and use your fingers to take out two egg yolks, season with pepper and a little sea salt, whisk and set aside while your pan heats up.
  • Heat a heavy-bottomed nonstick sauté pan over medium-low heat,  Add a little olive oil and let it heat up — if you are sauteeing any vegetables, like spinach, broccoli or onions, go ahead and cook them up in the pan for a few minutes and set side. Wipe out the pan and add a little more olive oil, let it heat up and then add your eggs. You’ll know the pan is hot enough by flicking a little water on it. If it sizzles, it’s ready to go! Go ahead and add your eggs.
  • Let the eggs cook for up to a minute or until the bottom starts to set.
  • With a heat-resistant rubber spatula, gently push one edge of the egg into the center of the pan, while tilting the pan to allow the still liquid egg to flow in underneath. Repeat with the other edges, until there's no liquid left. As it cooks, your omelette should start to look a little bit like a pancake. The goal here is not to burn the eggs. 
  • Now here’s the hardest part: gently flip the egg pancake over, using your spatula to ease it over if necessary. Cook for another few seconds, or until there is not uncooked egg left. If you mess this part up… you now have delicious, healthy scrambled eggs! Just go with it.
  • Add your veggies to the center of the omelette, fold one side of the omelette over so it touches the other and slide it onto a plate; season with some fresh herbs like basil or thyme and some sea salt and pepper and boom, you are set!  Add a side of fresh fruit and some avocado and you have an amazingly simple, but super healthy restaurant quality breakfast

Tips to Make Healthy Choices When Dining Out: Lunch and Dinner

Eat More Paleo When Dining Out

You’re all familiar with the paleo diet, right? The paleo diet is a way of eating that typically includes lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds — foods that in the past could be obtained by hunting and gathering. This is certainly a great way to approach dining out at restaurants. It automatically helps you to eliminate heavy, unhealthy carbohydrates, including pasta and rice dishes and also cuts out most fried foods as well as heavy, dairy based dishes like alfredo, carbonara, and dishes that have a lot of cheese. Following a paleo dining out plan means you are only going to focus on healthy vegetables and lean meats or fish (unless your vegetarian) when eating out.

Fill Up On Salad, Not Bread

We always recommend starting a lunch or dinner with a salad. It’s a great way to get some extra nutrients into your diet, especially if you choose a healthy salad with all natural ingredients, including lots of leafy greens, fresh raw veggies, and maybe some nuts, seeds, or even dried fruit.  

Don’t get caught up in the “salad equals health” craze. Make sure you avoid salads that have deli meats, fried or “crispy” chicken, bacon, croutons, cheese, and salad dressings that are mayonnaise-based or have a lot of added sugar. Just because it’s a salad, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Take the Applebee’s Oriental Chicken Salad with Crispy Chicken for example — some people think they are making a healthy choice because they are eating a salad, but in reality, that salad contains 1,600 calories, 104 g fat and 1,790 mg sodium

Also, instead of heavy dressings, opt for a vinaigrette, or an olive oil and vinegar-based dressing on the side - oh, and when eating your salad, just “fork it”. What does that mean? Instead of pouring dressing all over your beautiful salad, dip your fork in your dressing, then grab some of your greens and veggies and enjoy!

Actually, don’t tell anyone this, but Dr. Nancy sometimes brings her own homemade vinaigrette in her pocketbook, orders a salad, and uses her own dressing. Some people think it’s a little weird, but it’s healthy!

Spill-Proof Purse Dressing

In a spill-proof jar (like a small mason jar with a top that screws on), add the following and shake like crazy:

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
  • 3 tablespoons of your favorite vinegar
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil

That’s all there is to it. Order a healthy salad, skip the unhealthy dressings, use your own healthy dressing and “fork it”! It can’t get any easier than that!

Skip the Soup!  

We often hear that “soup is good food”, and in fact, many homemade soups can actually be healthy, but very few soups you order in a restaurant are healthy. In fact, most soups are loaded with additives and preservatives, made with low-quality ingredients, and rely heavily on butter, cream, and cheese for flavor. And almost all soups are absolutely loaded with salt. So, skip the soup and stick with a healthy salad.

Ask Your Server To Make Healthy Substitutions

Would you like fries or a baked potato with that?  How about a house salad or coleslaw?” 

How many times has a waiter asked you that? Don’t be afraid to say “no thanks” to the unhealthy extras, and ask for extra steamed or raw veggies instead. We guarantee your server won’t even think twice about your request. They are happy to swap out heavy, unhealthy options for vegetables. Other ideas you might want to consider include asking for vegetables instead of rice or pasta, especially when you are ordering Italian or indian dish. Curry dishes or stews are awesome as is or over fresh, steamed vegetables. 

Ask for a to go box before you eat

Most restaurant dishes contain enough food for two to three servings. Since they taste really good, you’re likely to eat more than you really need to, so help yourself out and put at least half the dish aside and take it home for lunch or dinner the next day.

Supplement!

Nearly 40% of Americans eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner at a fast food restaurant daily — that’s a staggering number of people eating fast food on a regular basis. If you are one of them, we hope you are trying really hard to make healthy choices. One thing you should also do is supplement with a really high-quality multivitamin, it’s not going to help you make healthy choices when dining out, but it does ensure that you are getting the vitamins and minerals you need and makes sure you are not having health issues as a result of being deficient.   

Smarter Nutrition’s Multivitamin contains essential vitamins and minerals like beta carotene, riboflavin, Methylcobalamin, vitamin D3, vitamin E, magnesium, calcium, and boron, sourced from organic food sources, including broccoli, spinach, okra, peaches, pears and pumpkin seeds. They are not sourced from synthetic man-made products, and that makes a huge difference on how your body absorbs and responds.  

Wrap-Up

Today we covered some of Dr. Nancy’s favorite tips and tricks for making healthy choices when eating out for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Remember, restaurant food is often fried, loaded with salt or fat, or comes in absolutely huge portions. But you can still eat out and make healthy choices — skip breakfast meats, bacon, ham, and sausage, which are loaded with unhealthy fat and sodium. The same goes for breakfast pastries and donuts; not healthy options, pass on those too! Look for egg whites, plain oatmeal, and fresh fruit at breakfast, and try the omelette recipe we showed you. You’ll love it!  

Some other tips we talked about today included eating paleo when dining out. Choose grilled meats and veggies; skip the carbs, pastas, potatoes, the fries; load up on salad and veggies, with dressing on the side, remember to “fork it”, and pack half of your meal into a to-go box before you eat it. It will keep you from overeating and paying for it later!

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