Eating Healthy When Dining Out

Sorry, no recipe today.  But get ready for the next two because they are AMAZING!  Well I know one is because I have already made it and the other one sounds amazing so I am just assuming it will be:-) I thought today we could talk a little about the conundrum of eating healthy when dining out.  We all do it.  For some of us eating out is saved for special occasions or those accidental moments when you end up being gone all day without any food packed.  For others eating out is a way of life due to busy schedules, culinary stress or a variety of other causes.DSC_0499DSC_0595Me?  I don’t eat out very often.  Growing up eating out was reserved for birthdays or special occasions.  When I was in college I still rarely ate out, unless it was a date.  I have always been a little too frugal for my own good and could rarely justify the cost.  Now my eating out days are even slimmer.  I still have a hard time buying something in a restaurant that I know I could make for half the price (or even less!).  There is also the issue, for me, of finding healthy food that has no gluten, dairy or peanut products.  That cuts down our eating out days even more:-) However for those of you who enjoy eating out or whose lifestyle demands it I thought it would be beneficial to discuss the healthiest ways to do it. DSC_1267DSC_0630I have thought about this a lot, but I attended a luncheon last week that brought it to the forefront of my mind.  Zupas catered the luncheon and shared with us information about their ingredients, preparation process and catering.  (Here is a link to their catering if you are interested in checking them out.)  I know those who are local are familiar with Zupas, but for those who live elsewhere it is a soup/salad/sandwich café.  When I first discovered them, like everyone else, I was obsessed.  I have never had a sandwich there but I was a huge fan of their salads and especially their soups.  When I discovered that I couldn’t eat gluten or dairy it became harder for me personally to eat there.  Almost everything has gluten in it or has been contaminated by the presence of gluten all around it.  So for fellow friends who can’t eat gluten I am sorry to say for now this is still not a good option.  I hope as the company continues to grow that they will be able to make it a friendlier gluten-free environment.  So while I can’t really eat there I still highly recommend it to those who can.  I also want to share with you what I learned about their quality because I think it can help establish general guidelines for eating out.DSC_0495DSC_0483I was impressed by what I learned and could I eat most of their food my love for them would have grown.  They don’t use any preservatives in any of their produce or bread.  This means that their food is only good for one day and every day they provide new and fresh ingredients.  This means fresh bread, lettuce, soup, tomatoes, peppers, chicken, ect. They also have priority with their produce vendors and get first selection (awesome).  They prepare each of their soups from fresh ingredients every morning.  I was shocked to learn that a lot of restaurants that serve soup do it from dehydrated mixes.  I have always thought soup was the best choice for getting something fresh and healthy.  Now I am not quite sure.DSC_0657DSC_0612It was an afternoon filled with information and it made me realize that we have a right to know.  I think that is one of the greatest tools you can have when deciding what is best to eat.  So here are my suggestions or guidelines to healthy eating out.

  • Do your homework.  We have the right to ask questions.  Call ahead.  Ask about the quality of ingredients.  Ask if the soup is fresh or from a bag.  Ask if the meat has additives.  Ask about how fresh everything is.  Ask.  Ask.  Ask.  If it is good quality they should want to tell you.
  • Look for places that have a lot of produce.  This doesn’t limit your options to a salad.  We love eating Thai food because it tastes great and you get a ton of vegetables with your dish.  When it comes to American food salad and soup are your healthiest options, but if your branch out to other ethnicities as well you have tons of options.
  • Avoid food that leaves you with a heavy sick feeling.  Eating should make us feel good.  We eat to replenish our body and to give it the fuel it needs.  We do that in the best tasting way possible, but always be aware of what you are putting in your body.  (I’m not talking about the occasional treat because we all need those.  I am talking about habits and how we regularly treat our bodies.)

Learn to listen to your body.  It is a process that becomes easier over time.  It will tell you what food is good for it and what food to avoid.  It will also tell you what it needs most.  Some days my body screams for protein and other days it cries for vegetables and fruit.  On those rare rare occasions it will need more carbs.  This is true whether you are eating out or dining in and it is important to listen to its voice and not simply decide based on what your taste buds want:-) Thank you to Zupas for being so open and helping me realize that if we are always that informed making our food decisions would be a lot easier.  That is the greatest thing I took from that meeting.  You have a right to know exactly what you are eating.  Have fun learning about your favorite restaurants and discovering a few new ones.  We’ll be back to some great dining in recipes tomorrow!

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