Eat out a lot? Take charge of your restaurant menu

Don't be deceived by the veggies, the fries and beef make this plate an unhealthy food choice. File photo.

by Christopher B. Robrahn
Fitness Columnist

How many times do we arrive at a new restaurant, look at their menu for the first time, and it all looks Greek? No, I don’t mean Greek food, I mean that none of it looks familiar.  

The waiter arrives, and you say, “I’m not ready yet,” or worse; you simply order something that sounds good but may be bad for you.

Well, was it really that good?

You should know what the caloric content, the fats and other ingredients? Maybe your thought is, “I’m enjoying myself when I go out, and I don’t want to know.”

Restaurants have made great strides in improving a health-conscious kind of menus. The pressure has been on for them to provide food information you so can understand what you consume.   

If you are into fitness, eating without a clue isn’t wise and can be blindly defeating you. If you exercise regularly, take your confidence into a restaurant. You will feel even more so after you finish your meal.

There are a few things to consider when eating out. First, if you are meeting friends or simply going on a date or heading to a restaurant for your first visit, find their website or social media page. Many restaurants have menus you can review online.   

Next, do your due diligence; it’ll maybe take 10 minutes. Look to see what kind of food they serve, and you might want to order. Figure the caloric and fat content, or something as easy as portion size. Some menus now have caloric content on the menu.  

If you see some great options, but no basic information on the food, make notes and either call the restaurant beforehand or, when you are seated, have the restaurant staff address your concerns.

If you don’t have time in advance, or the eatery doesn’t have the information available online, make sure and ask the wait staff questions about your food. If they don’t know the answers, ask who does, and get your questions answered. 

The worst thing is to be uninformed.

Some restaurants give you enough food for three meals. Try ordering from the kiddie menu, if allowed, to get something you want in a smaller portion size (I’ve done this before). I always feel better when I’ve eaten only a reasonable portion.

And finally, use sauces, dressings or other toppings or additions to your meal. You can order something which seems healthy, but depending on how the food is cooked, prepared and anything you might add, it can still be very unhealthy.   

A recurring registered dietician guest on the program I host, Spirit of Fitness gave a few pointers when we discussed the topic. Two of them were drinking water before you go into the restaurant to cut down on hunger and to have your salad dressing served in a separate container, rather than directly onto your salad.   

You will consume less, and in a way you appreciate. It’s all about taking control of your fitness and health. You can be diligent and knowledgeable and still have a great time with friends. The worst thing is to be clueless and uninformed.

Bon appétit, and enjoy a great time the next time you go out!