How To Eat Healthier Lunches When You’re Constantly Eating Out for Work

It’s that time of year again: The New Year’s resolutions have been set, and there’s no more common resolution than to eat healthier. But regardless of how strong you start the year in January, everyone’s willpower starts to slip in February, and by March, those resolutions are out the window.

It can be especially tough to eat healthy when you’re busy working and don’t have time to cook. More often than not, you end up eating lunch out with colleagues or picking up dinner on the way home.

Additionally, if your job entails taking clients and partners out to lunch or dinner often, your diet can take a serious hit. A meal out at a restaurant can contain over one thousand calories if you’re not careful. Here are a few tips on eating healthier when you’re always eating out:

Eat With a Health-Oriented Friend

Before you head out to lunch at your local grab-and-go, grab a coworker who you know is focused on nutrition and healthy eating. By teaming up against diet-busting menu items, you’re more likely to stick with healthier options.

Studies have shown that people, and women in particular, mirror each other when they go out to eat. In other words, if she orders healthy, you will too — and vice versa.

Don’t work with anyone whose mind is on healthy eating? No problem. Try to order first so that you can resist the temptation to order something more decadent based on the rest of the group’s choices.

Ask for More Veggies

Many dishes on lunch and dinner menus come with vegetables as a side dish. However, the portion of vegetables is usually much smaller than that of the main entree. When ordering, ask for a double (or even triple) portion of vegetables.

The extra fiber will fill you up and since they’re vegetables, you won’t feel the effects on your waistline. Plus, there’s a good chance that the restaurant won’t charge you for an extra serving of vegetables, since veggies are among the lowest of a restaurant’s food costs.

Don’t Fall for “Healthy” Options

Beware of the menu sections that tout low carb or “healthy” menu items. Just because something is in a trendy diet bucket doesn’t mean it’s good for you.

A lot of these entrees can be just as unhealthy, if not more so, than items on the regular menu. Something that is low carb might not be low calorie, and even a salad can contain a lot of fat.

Check out the ingredients on everything before you order, and use common sense. Avoid anything with “creamy” in the title.

Fill up on Salad First

Order a salad before your meal, with dressing on the side. Since salads are chock full of leafy greens, veggies and sometimes fruit, you’ll load up on healthy foods before your meal even gets there, which leads you to eat less of the main dish.

Since your dressing is on the side, you can easily determine how much dressing you want and when. A good method to use for rationed salad dressing is the fork dip method. Dip your fork in the dressing before you pick up some salad. You’ll get just the right amount of flavor, and won’t rack up the calories with a creamy dressing like ranch or bleu cheese.

Portion Control

A typical restaurant portion can easily be a meal for two people. When there’s a plate of delicious food in front of us, we tend to eat all of it, even if we aren’t hungry. To avoid overeating, try one of these methods:

  • Get It to Go — Ask for a box before your food even comes. When it arrives, put half in the to-go container and eat what’s left on your plate. You’ll avoid overeating, and even have some leftovers for lunch tomorrow.
  • Ask for a Half Portion — When you’re ordering, ask the waiter for a half portion of whatever you’re eating. It shouldn’t matter to them, as long as you’re paying for the whole entree. Since you’re taking the option to overeat out of the equation, your diet becomes that much easier.
  • Order an Appetizer Instead — Entrees are the culprits when it comes to extra-large portions, and that’s usually not the case with appetizers. Order two appetizers instead of an appetizer and an entree. The portions will be smaller, and appetizer menus are usually full of salads, fresh veggies, seafood and other healthy options.

Drink Smart

Healthy choices aren’t just for food: You have to drink healthy also. Typically, drinks like soda, sweet tea or juice contain a lot of sugar, and that means calories. Skip the sugary drinks and order water instead.

If you’re at a meal with a client and want to order an alcoholic beverage, order one glass of wine and intersperse several sips of water between sips.

Ask Some Questions

A lot of people don’t ask questions about the menu. Whether it’s because they don’t want the waiter to be annoyed with them or they don’t want to hold up the rest of the table, people often order blindly, without knowing more than what’s listed in front of them.

If you want to eat healthier, start asking questions. Start with how the food is cooked. Is it fried? Sauteed? Maybe it’s grilled or baked. There’s a huge difference in the calorie and fat count of something fried versus something grilled. Knowing how something is made and what options it carries lets you make an informed decision about what you should eat.

And when in doubt, ask about substitutions. Most restaurants have no problem switching out those fries for some steamed asparagus. And now, even mobile apps have the ability to customize your meals to suit your healthy eating.

Slow Down

Most people eat way too quickly. The result is that their bodies don’t have time to process that they’re full, and they eat too much.

Take your time when you’re eating. Some experts say that you should chew your food between five and 10 times for softer foods, and upwards of 30 times for tougher foods. By tracking your chewing, you’ll slow down, and eat less. Chewing your food properly can aid digestion to boot.

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be stressful, even if you’re constantly eating out for work. With these tips, you’ll keep that resolution for a lot longer.

Sarah Landrum

After graduating from Penn State with degrees in Marketing and PR, Sarah moved to Harrisburg to start her career as a Digital Media Specialist and a writer. She later founded Punched Clocks, a site dedicated to helping young professionals navigate the work world and find happiness and success in their careers.

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