In a perfect world where everything you consumed came straight from your kitchen, making healthy choices would be easy. When you’re out with friends, hitting the bar or going out to eat, however, you can unintentionally consume a lot of extra calories and fewer nutrients than you need. Here are some tips for keeping your eating in check when your social calendar gets busy.
1. Steer clear of (certain) appetizers. The appetizer table at a party may contain a number of decadent options, and most of them are probably high in fat and sodium. If you must snack, look for a bowl of nuts, whole-grain crackers with a bit of cheese, a fruit or veggie tray, or other healthy options. The same goes for appetizers at restaurants–if you want something to eat prior to your entree, order a small side salad or crudites.
2. Give yourself a break once in a while; just don’t go overboard. Everyone needs a “cheat” day now and again and not meeting your daily quota of fruits and veggies for one day certainly won’t hurt you. Keep these days to a minimum, however, and save your splurges for special occasions. Also, do not fall victim to the temptation to eat poorly all day just because you “already messed up” at breakfast or lunch.
3. Mind your drinking. Beer, wine and mixed drinks can contain a huge number of calories, so the best way to stay within your calorie budget is to have just a drink or two. That said, there are lower-calorie beers available and drinks made with seltzer and a splash of juice will be much better for you than cream-based drinks or those that contain lots of sugary liquors.
4. Make good choices at restaurants. Going out to eat isn’t necessarily bad, nutritionally speaking, if you make smart decisions. Look for lean proteins like fish or chicken, veggie-rich salads, or low-fat vegetarian options. Restaurant portions are often huge, so it isn’t a bad idea to package half of your meal to save for another meal.
5. Keep fast food to a minimum and be smart when you do place an order. Grabbing a quick meal after the game or after work once in a while is okay, but don’t visit the drive-through daily. Leave fatty condiments like mayo off your burgers, and skip bacon and cheese when possible. Grilled chicken sandwiches or salads are usually better choices than burgers. Don’t forget to lighten up your sides; when possible, choose apple slices, side salads, or baked potatoes over French fries.
6. Eat beforehand, when possible. Before heading to the movie theater, ball park or other entertainment venue with friends, have a healthy meal at home. This way, you will be less tempted to fill up on fatty popcorn, hot dogs, or sugary drinks.
Eating a well-rounded, balanced diet is something that you should strive for almost every day. While social occasions may make it more difficult to stay on track, with a little thoughtfulness and the tips in this article, you can still make smart decisions that won’t wreck your diet.