11 Things You're Not Doing When You Eat Out, But Should

No, you don't have to order a salad.

Eating out at restaurants is definitely fun and easy, but it usually means eating and spending more than you would at home. Studies show that dining at both fast food and full service restaurants causes people to eat more sugar, saturated fat and salt than when cooking at home. On average, 200 more calories are consumed. 

That doesn't necessarily mean you should cut out eating at restaurants entirely, but you can definitely make better choices when you do. 

Here are some ways to eat better when eating out:

1. Check the menu before arriving at the restaurant.

It takes just a few minutes to search the restaurant's menu online before you go. Decide what you'll order before you get there. That'll keep you from making impulsive decisions when you're at the table. You can also plan the rest of your meals for the day around it. If you know you're going to eat a cheeseburger for dinner, you can opt to eat fruit for breakfast instead of your normal bagel. 

2. Drink water before and during your meal.

Filling up on water will prevent you from overeating and help you slow down between bites. 

3. Get it prepared healthier.

Order your meal grilled instead of fried. Replace greasy sides with veggies instead. Ask for your dish without any unwanted toppings. 

People customize their dishes all the time to fit their dietary needs, so don't feel like making requests is annoying. Just be really polite. 

4. Drink red wine.

Red wine has tons of health benefits from burning fat to lowering blood pressure to prolonging your life! If you want to drink something other than water, red wine is your healthiest bet. 

5. Order sauces on the side.

Cut down on unnecessary calories by always ordering your sauce or dressing on the side. Then, you'll be able to control how much of it your dish actually needs. 

6. Be conscious of your eating pace.

You may be subconsciously mimicking the pace of the people you eat with. Studies show that when two women are eating together, they tend to take bites within five seconds of each other. That can make you eat faster and more than you want to. Instead, consciously slow down your pace when you're dining out with other people. Plus, now you have a good reason to go out to eat with your friends who are notoriously slow eaters. 

7. Create a dining out budget.

It might sound lame, but planning ahead will help you save money and keep you from eating at restaurants more than you should. Decide how many times you'll dine out monthly, create a budget for those meals and stick to it. You spend less and eat out less. 

8. Have engaging conversation.

By having lively conversation with your dining partner, you'll spend more time enjoying each other's company and less time shoveling food into your mouth. It'll help you slow down and notice when you're full. Plus, you'll just enjoy the experience much more overall. 

9. Skip the bread basket.

This goes for chips and salsa too. There no need to fill up on these freebies when you could be eating something with more nutritional value. Not to mention they can make you feel too full to actually eat your meal. Need something to tide you over before your entree arrives but don't want to splurge on an appetizer? Order something from the side menu that can be easily prepared such as a side salad. 

10. Keep your phone out of sight.

Are you one of those people that puts their phone on the table during meals? Stop doing that. Getting stressful calls, texts or emails can cause emotional eating and you don't want that. Dining out should be about enjoying your meal and the company in front of you.

11. Avoid restaurants with dim lighting.

Studies show that eating at restaurants with soft or warm lighting makes you stay longer. That can mean ordering an unplanned dessert or more drinks than you would otherwise. "Because people are less inhibited and less self-conscious when the lights are low, they are likely to consume more than they otherwise would," according to the study. 

Save your wallet and your waistline by avoiding restaurants that make you feel super cozy as much as possible. 

Cover Image: iStock

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