We've all heard the narrative that eating out at restaurants isn't the best for our wallets or waistlines. But have you ever noticed that almost every reality TV show features celebrities eating away from home several times a week? How do the “Real Housewives” stay in such good shape when they dine out every weekend at the most exclusive restaurants? That's the money question. It can certainly be challenging to mimic this lifestyle as a college student, but with careful planning, you can inherit several small strategies that fit people use when eating away from home. These techniques might seem like minor changes, but they can be extremely effective in helping you stay in shape. Whether you are grabbing fast-food, eating at a restaurant or going to a potluck dinner, use these 7 hacks the next time you dine away from home.
1. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
Grab your smartphone and scout the menu for the restaurant online beforehand to pre-select your healthy option. Taking this extra step will help you avoid wavering to the fried and cheese covered options you see on the table next to you. If you preview the menu and don’t see anything that’s healthy, pick another restaurant.
2. Be a leader
Ask to order first. If you set the tone for your meal with friends by choosing healthy options, you could end up actually influencing your friends positively! If they order first though, the reverse could happen –you might get influenced into making a worse decision to fit in (and "you know how that ish go" - *Drake voice*).
3. Have it your way
Just like at Burger King, you don't have to be afraid to ask your waiter to modify a meal. A chicken sandwich or a burger without the bun is a breeze and most dishes can easily turn into a plate of meat and vegetables. Their goal is to make you happy.
4. Drink water and skip the bread basket
Sugary drinks and the infamous bread basket served before a meal are sneaky little calorie killers. Not only is water with lemon free of charge, sipping it before you eat will help with digestion. If you must have something to munch on while you wait for your order, ask for a plate of raw vegetables.
5. Order from the appetizer menu
Appetizers are the most playful part of the menu where premium portions and prices are downsized. Order a starter and eat it as your main meal. Just make sure you stay away from the breaded or sauced options to keep it from becoming a calorie bomb.
6. Ask to box half your entrée
Before your meal ever gets to the table, ask your waiter to split it down the middle and pack 1/2 to go. Or split an entrée with your sweat sister to save calories and coins!
7. Skip dessert
Rather than having to rely on the willpower to curb your sweet tooth when the dessert menu appears, condition your brain to say “no dessert for me, thanks!” Calories count. Save them for special foods or the occasional adult beverage. If everybody else at the table is getting dessert, get yourself some tea and enjoy the company of the people at the table with you.
Eating out in moderation is always a good break from on-campus dining. It gives you the delicious freedom of eating and enjoying whatever you choose. Be mindful of your portion sizes and what effect your choices will have not only on your finances but your health as well later on down the road. Do you have any eating out hacks? Share them below!