It seems like a hot new restaurant is opening every other day in Cincinnati. And here at Deupree House, our residents love taking trips to check them out.
The bad news about all of these delicious options: Making healthy choices is hard enough on its own, and when you factor in dining out, the challenges grow. The good news: It is possible to eat healthy at the hottest new restaurants.
Read on for a roundup of eight tips aimed at helping seniors enjoy all of the satisfaction of eating out without sabotaging their dietary goals.
1. Plan ahead
Planning ahead is your best friend when it comes to making healthy choices. Many restaurants now publish their menus on their websites. Some even include nutritional information! Checking out several restaurants online before deciding where to dine can help you hone in on the most diet-friendly establishments.
Selecting nutritious appetizers, entrées and desserts in advance, meanwhile, can help you avoid temptation and make the best choices during the meal.
2. Order deliberately
Perusing the menu ahead of time can also help you order more deliberately, which is key when it comes to resisting temptation. “Balance your meal by including healthier selections from all the different food groups such as lean protein foods, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Look for freshly made entrée salads that give you ‘balance in a bowl.’ For example, entrée salads with baked or grilled chicken, beans or seafood provide protein along with fiber and other nutrients,” suggests the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
And remember, while no one wants to be a difficult diner, it’s completely within your rights as a customer to ask for what you want. Don’t be afraid to request dressing on the side or to inquire about substitutions. Additionally, if you have particular nutritional needs, many restaurants will happily accommodate special requests.
3. Enjoy the experience of eating
Speaking of deliberation, eating deliberately is also important. Chew slowly. Not only does this help you truly savor your meal, but it also allows time for your brain to deliver the message to your stomach that it’s full. “Fast eaters often are overeaters, while slow eaters tend to eat less and are still satisfied,” continues the Academy.
4. Start with salad
Salads are packed with veggies and help you feel full sooner. In fact, according to Consumer Reports, eating a low-calorie salad at the start of a meal curbs hunger and “could be the key to dieters’ success."
Not a big fan of salad? The same benefits apply to low-calorie soups.
5. Prioritize portion control
Today’s restaurant portions are huge, and yet many seniors have less than humongous appetites. Portioning your meal in half and bringing the leftovers home for tomorrow’s lunch or dinner is a simple way to avoid overeating. Or, skip the entrée entirely and opt for an appetizer and side salad instead.
6. Sip smarter
Soft drinks and juices are high in sugar and low on nutritional value. To avoid drinking your calories, stick with water, unsweetened tea, or fat-free or low-fat milk.
Experts also suggest limiting alcohol intake due to age-related changes. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends that healthy people over the age of 65 who don’t take medication should limit themselves to no more than seven drinks per week or three drinks on a single day. Drink too much while dining out and you’ll not only end up racking up the calories, but you’ll also risk impairments ranging from thinking less clearly to falling.
7. Give your brain a boost
While we often think of eating right in terms of how it impacts the body, eating right also supports a healthy brain. Which begs the question: Which ingredients qualify as “brain food"? Superfoods with big brain benefits include blueberries (AKA “brainberries”), wild salmon, nuts and seeds, avocados, whole grains, beans, and pomegranates are all superfoods with big brain benefits. Here are five simple food swaps you can make to improve brain health.
When dessert rolls around, meanwhile, stick with dark chocolate, which can “sharpen up the mind and give a short-term boost to cognitive skills,” according to research from the University of Nottingham.
8. Focus on fresh
The restaurant industry has undergone a major movement in the direction of fresh, farm-to-table food in recent years, and with good reason: Not only does fresh food taste better because it contains all of its original flavors and juices, but it also maintains more of its nutritional value making it better for the body. Because of this, many restaurants, including our own Grille 39, are putting fresh first when it comes to creating their menus.
Ultimately, watching what you eat doesn’t have to mean sacrificing taste or variety. By adopting these eight tips, seniors can feel good about dining out. And when in doubt, you can rarely go wrong by abiding to the adage, "Everything in moderation."