Clever ways to eat healthy while eating out

After a year and a half of confinement and restaurants not being open, it seems like all of Montreal is hitting the restaurants HARD to make up for lost time! Girls nights are being planned, date nights are happening and friend group get-togethers are popping up. These long-awaited and dearly missed events are sweet, sweet music to my ears!

But they are NOT good for healthy eating. After a year and a half of home-cooked healthy meals, I’ve already noticed a decrease in my level of energy, that my clothes are starting to feel a little bit snug, and that my wallet has taken a hit. And while I don’t want to give up this newly regained option of dining out with friends, I realize that I need to start making healthier dining choices while still being out and about on the Montreal resto scene.

So here are my clever little tips and tricks to maintaining healthy eating habits while still going out and having some fun with friends!

1)    HAVE A SNACK BEFORE YOU GO: I realize that snacking before going out to eat sounds like it would deliver the opposite result than the one we are trying to achieve. But hear me out. Having a healthy snack (keyword here being healthy), such as an apple, mixed nuts, or some cut-up veggies reduces the risk of over-indulging once you’ve arrived at the restaurant. Just like going grocery shopping when hungry is a risky decision, reading a menu when hungry becomes way too tempting to opt for high caloric, deliciously fatty foods.

2)    CHOOSE YOUR RESTO WITH CARE: When choosing a restaurant, try to look for restaurants that offer healthy cooking methods such as steaming, grilling, or poaching. Sushi restaurants, for example, have healthier protein options than restaurants that utilize more of a deep-fried general method of cooking. And, trust me, saying “no, no, I’ll stick to a salad” at those deep-fried restaurants is a disaster waiting to happen. Even the best of intentions quickly fail when the friends on either side of you are ordering the delicious, golden brown French fries and the mouth-watering burger.

Tapas is another great option for sticking to a healthier-style of eating. Portion control is one of the hardest things to do at a restaurant considering that, in many restaurants, the portions are enormous! Restaurants such as Jatoba and Tiradito are great options for a more tapas-style, small plate experience, to name a few. Both restos offer small, shareable plates with healthier, fish-heavy protein options. And the fact that they are hip and trendy is a definite bonus when dining out with friends!

3)    OPT FOR DELIGHTFUL SALADS: In keeping with the tip #2 above, choose restaurants that actually have appealing sounding salads. I love a caesar salad and a garden salad as much as the next person but they just don’t have the oomph and pizzazz of salads like the “K for Katrine Salad” available for a limited time at LOV. This gluten-friendly, vegan salad is definitely crave-worthy for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. Served warm and featuring maple-curry roasted cauliflower and tofu, this salad is a winner for any healthy eating contest.

By reading the menu prior to choosing a restaurant, you make sure that the salad options are appealing and crave-worthy. Just keep an eye out for overly caloric salads which have things like fried, breaded chicken strips or tortilla chips.

4)    AVOID EMPTY CALORIES: I doubt we even need to mention the tip of “skip the dessert”, right? Those empty calories are pretty obvious to most people. But did you know that one glass of wine has approximately 130 calories? A glass of Coca-cola has about 140 calories. And those delicious, warm bread rolls put on the table prior to ordering have about 80 - 100 calories each. And let’s not even get started on mixed drink cocktails!

No need to get discouraged, it’s not all doom and gloom! Why not opt to have an apéritif chez vous prior to hitting the restaurant? There are many low-cal options when it comes to cocktails and drinks. La Dolce Vita makes an alcoholic, flavoured seltzer that is refreshing, low-cal and low-sugar. With only 90 calories and only 3 grams of sugar, it is a pretty good option for remaining on the healthy eating track.

5)    PRACTICE MINDFUL EATING: Remember when your parents used to tell you to chew 21 times on each side? It turns out, they were right (insert eye roll here!). But seriously, I have started employing this very simple, and very FREE, tip into my daily eating routine and I see a noticeable difference. By taking the time to chew properly and mindfully on each side (seriously!), you are allowing the necessary time for your food to register in your stomach and send the necessary “I’m full” signals! It’s such an easy way to make sure to not overeat, plus it almost becomes a moment of meditation and relaxation. It truly makes eating that much more enjoyable!

I am extremely happy that restaurants have opened up again and we can start socializing and seeing people. I think we all just need to find a happy balance between our pre-covid lives and our covid-lives to make sure we continue to make healthy and balanced decisions. And I don’t only mean when it comes to food and healthy eating, I mean across the board: work-life balance, play-life balance, kid-life balance, etc…

Happy eating!

- Sarah Birtwistle