By not dining at the restaurant, you’re already in a healthier eating environment. So, we’re already winning! But, what else can we do?
Transitioning to cooking 100% of your meals at home is difficult. Thankfully, many local restaurants have continued carryout and expanded delivery service during the COVID-19 pandemic. Eating restaurant meals at home can be done safely as well as healthfully just by following a few simple tricks.
By not dining at the restaurant, you’re already in a healthier eating environment. Restaurants often are designed to increase your intake. The lighting, the colors, the menus, the starters, the drinks — all designed with one goal in mind — to get you to eat and drink more. Decreasing these environmental cues can be a huge part of improving the healthiness of your meal. So, we’re already winning! But, what else can we do?
- Decide what you’re ordering in advance. We make our poorest food choices when we are already hungry. If you’re choosing to order dinner, decide in the morning after breakfast what you plan to get. This way you are in full control.
- Skip the starters. Does it come with rolls? Ask for the order without. It’s not easy, but it saves calories.
- Purchase your main dish from a restaurant, but make your own sides at home. This can help save money and calories. Thinking fast-food? Purchase your sandwiches, but then pair with fruit, celery sticks, cottage cheese, etc., from home.
- Choose something you wouldn’t make at home! Don’t know how to cook fish? Here’s a great opportunity for you to add variety to your diet.
- Dishes labeled deepfried, panfried, basted, batterdipped, breaded, creamy, crispy, scalloped, Alfredo, au gratin, or in cream sauce are usually high in calories, unhealthy fats or sodium. Order steamed, grilled or broiled dishes instead.
- Veggies, veggies, veggies. Think about how to include as many vegetables as possible. Choose main dishes that include vegetables, such as stir-fries, kebabs or pasta with a tomato sauce and vegetables. Choose vegetables as a side items or add a side salad.
- Speaking of sides, try to decrease french fries, onion rings, noodles, macaroni and cheese, and so forth. Healthier sides include side salads, fresh fruit, soups or chili, or baked potatoes.
- With pizza, order thin crust instead of regular crust, deep dish or pan. Also, choose vegetable toppings rather than high-in-saturated-fat meat toppings.
- Drink water with your meal. Soda is a huge source of hidden calories. One 32ounce, Big Gulp-sized regular cola packs about 425 calories, which can quickly gulp up a big portion of your daily calorie intake. Try adding a little lemon to your water or having unsweetened iced tea.
- Eat mindfully. Pay attention to what you eat, and savor each bite. Chew your food more thoroughly and avoid eating on the run. Being mindful also means stopping before you are full. It takes time for your body to register that you have eaten. Mindful eating relaxes you so you digest better, and makes you feel more satisfied.
Safe pickup and delivery
- When picking up carryout, practice social distancing — making sure to stay at least 6 feet away from others. The restaurant worker may have to set food down on a countertop or the curb in order for you to pick up safely. Delivery services may offer the option of leaving your meal at your door. You can prepay and tip when you order online.
- Remove all food from the restaurant’s disposable containers and throw containers out. If bags touch your countertops, be sure to disinfect countertops where bags were sitting. Wash hands thoroughly before handling food from there.
- Do not use utensils from restaurants, and request they not be included in your order.
- Do not handle condiments from restaurants unless you’ve disinfected them.
- Wash your hands again before sitting down to eat.
Erin Wiedmar is a clinical nutritionist with Norton Healthcare.