Food & Drink

How to Make Good Choices When You Dine Out

How to Make Good Choices When You Dine Out
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Summertime was made for alfresco meals and boozy get-togethers with friends and family. After all, you've most likely spent the majority of winter (and perhaps some of spring) hunkering down at home with Netflix, a blanket, and a big bowl of soup. Now, it's time to re-introduce yourself to the public and remember how enjoyable it is to be so. But despite how amazing it feels, all of that dining out can lead to some unhealthy eating choices. The bread basket! The huge portions! The dessert menu! How is it possible to be healthy and have a social life? 

Luckily, celebrity nutritionist Kimberly Snyder has a few tips for maintaining that balance. Read on below for her words of wisdom.

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Manage the Bread Basket

Snyder suggests asking the waiter to hold the bread basket. “Why test your self-will and torture yourself when you don’t have to?” she says. Snyder also advises curbing your hunger prior to dinner: “You can have a mid-afternoon protein shake, for instance. Or when you sit down, order a salad right away, and be sure you choose a non-dairy dressing. Squeeze lemon juice over it or have a light vinaigrette instead.” Snyder adds, “Salad and celery sticks work well, too, especially if you’re in a bar and grill type of place, and your friends want to order shrimp scampi or chicken satay, and you want something you can pick up. Just try to get some kind of raw, green food into your stomach before the entrée comes. Enzymes and fiber act like a cushion to help whatever you eat afterwards digest more easily.” Another pro tip: “Take digestive enzymes at the beginning of the meal, which helps the food you eat break down and digest easier. If you are going to eat something heavier than usual, you might want to take an extra one.”

Balance Your Protein and Starches

“Make a choice as to whether you are going to have a concentrated starch or a concentrated protein meal, along with vegetables, and order around the choice you made. For instance, you could order salad, followed by fish and veggies, or salad followed by lentils and mushrooms, or brown rice and veggies,” says Snyder. “Asian restaurants, especially Thai, are among the easiest restaurants to eat out at because there are so many vegetables entrees you can order. If you’re going to a nice Italian restaurant and love pizza, they can probably make it for you with goat’s cheese. Sometimes I order a big double salad with a bunch of vegetable sides, like sautéed spinach, mushrooms or asparagus, along with a vegetarian soup.” Snyder takes a similar approach to Mexican food: “I ask for a huge green and vegetable salad, and top it with beans, rice and salsa (no cheese or sour cream). If I get the rice and beans (which I do love sometimes!), I leave off the guacamole, which is a lot of fat and feels heavy all together. Or you can opt for the guac and salsa on the salad, and leave off the rice and beans. You could even choose a baked potato (sweet if they have it) and vegetables.”

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Stick with Red Wine or Clear Liquor

“It’s not realistic to think you’ll never have any alcohol again. But of course, the more you have the worse it is for your beauty,” says Snyder. “Sometimes you may have a glass, sometimes more than one, but do not make that too regular of a habit if you care about your skin.” Snyder says to stick with red wine, which has antioxidants and is less hard on your liver, and clear liquors like vodka and gin, which may contain less congeners. “Congeners are substances produced during fermentation that can include small amounts of chemicals such as esters, tannins, acetone, methanol, and aldehydes. Congeners are responsible for most of the taste and aroma of distilled alcoholic beverages and may contribute to the symptoms of a hangover. Darker liquors such as whiskey, tequila, and rum contain more.” 

Avoid Fruit-Based Desserts

Surprisingly, Snyder suggests ditching fruit when it comes to dessert: “Fruit is meant to be eaten on an empty stomach or with leafy greens. It breaks down so quickly, as it is mostly water, so if you eat it after having heavier foods like meat or noodles, you’ll get bloated.” But that doesn’t mean sweets are off the table (no pun intended). “I recommend taking a little bit of dark chocolate in your purse if you know you’ll want something sweet after your meal or you know you’re likely to cave because the other people you’ll be dining with are big on ordering dessert,” she says. “I know we can’t all be perfect 100-percent of the time, and that’s okay! Just make the best choice you can under the circumstances. If one or two of your friends will split the dessert with you, that’s even better. You’ll all get a taste without going overboard. Just make it an occasional treat when you go out. Really enjoy it when you have it!”

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