Going Out Guilt-Free

Couple in evening wear having dinner on balcony, toasting with red wine
It’s fairly easy to stick to a healthy diet when you have the right mindset and take the time to prepare your own meals. In your kitchen, you purchased the ingredients so you know exactly what you’re eating. You can also control what you’re putting into your meal, from the amount of salt and fat to the amount of food you put on your plate.
So what do you do when you just can’t (or don’t want to) avoid going out to eat? Keep in mind that, while there is much to take into consideration, on average women should consume 1,800 calories in a day and men should consume 2,200-2,300 calories. But, sometimes, one meal from a restaurant will take up your entire calorie count for the day. To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, be mindful of the menu and the choices you’re making.
Make the Right Choices
Liza Derbalian-Cordero, registered dietician and director of health and wellness at CareHere in Orlando, is used to giving advice about how to success fully navigate restaurant menus and make healthy lifestyle choices. “Enjoy what you like but always practice moderation instead of focusing on diet foods or fat-free and low-calorie options,” she says. “Be mindful when you’re eating; pay attention and savor
each bite.”
A huge struggle when it comes to eating out is the portion size of the dishes. Make a healthy choice by asking if you can order a lunch portion instead of a dinner portion. If that isn’t an option – maybe the restaurant you’re at doesn’t serve lunch– then order an appetizer or a side salad with an added protein instead. When ordering salads, ask for your dressing on the side so you can control the amount you consume. You can also choose to share a meal with someone else in your party, although there may be a plate-sharing fee if you go this route.When sharing, the dish will be split for you in the kitchen, so you can resist the temptation of overindulging.
Another big diet buster is the breadbasket. If you just can’t say no to the pre-dinner snack, Derbalian-Cordero suggests taking one piece and moving the basket to the end of the table or asking your server to remove it completely. Removing the temptation from your reach is the best way to ensure you won’t go back for more.
At the end of the meal, you don’t have to resist the sweet temptation of dessert, although Derbalian-Cordero warns to watch the portion size of your selection because some are best fit for multiple diners. In the mix with sugary and calorie-laden cakes and pies, many restaurants have included fruit on the menu, which is the best-case scenario for soothing your sweet tooth. Another guilt-free choice is ice cream. Order one scoop without any extra sauce, and if gelato or sorbet is an option, go for that instead. “They have the same amount of sugar but are lower in fat,” Derbalian-Cordero says.
Overanalyze the Menu
It’s easy to be tricked by tasty menu descriptions. If you see something that says “crunchy” or “crusted” make sure it’s not fried before you order it. For sauces with garlic or lemon flavors, double check with your server to make sure it’s not cream-based, which is common with those descriptions. “Anything with cream may mean there are high fat products in it,” Derbalian-Cordero says. At the same time, if you order something that is sautéed, ask how much oil is in it so you can make adjustments if you find it is drenched in oil while cooking. “Olive oil is good, but too much isn’t.”
Look for specific buzzwords like steamed, grilled or baked for proteins like chicken, fish or steak. Sautéed proteins can also be a healthy choice as long as you ensure the amount of oil used in the cooking process is under control. When it comes to sauces, don’t avoid them. Instead, look for menu descriptions that say “wine-based” or “broth-based” to avoid the possibility of creamy sauces that can ruin your diet. When you’re feeling uncertain about your options, Derbalian-Cordero says, “Don’t be afraid to ask the wait staff for changes.”
These days, restaurants are making it easier for guests to visit when they are trying to stick to a healthy diet. Cooper’s Hawk Winery, with locations in Waterford Lakes and on International Drive, offers the Life Balance Menu, a lighter side of the kitchen that covers each section of the regular menu. Each healthy alternative includes the calorie count in the description so you can keep track of what you’re eating. Dandelion Communitea Cafe in Thornton Park offers a vegan menu that doesn’t include artificial flavoring or GMOs. The establishment prides itself in serving nourishing dishes that are low in salt, sugar and fat by using natural ingredients that are full of nutrients.
Have a Restaurant-Style Meal at Home
Prime seafood restaurant Mingos, with locations in downtown Orlando and East Orlando near the University of Central Florida, is known not only as a stellar sit-down restaurant but also for its healthy lifestyle program. This addition offers diners an affordable personal chef experience right in their home and takes serious consideration of nutritional dietary needs, restrictions and goals without compromising flavor.
“It’s all about convenience and having a personal chef make your meals,” says Executive Chef Luis Negron. “We’ll do the work for you while you sit back, relax and know you’re treating yourself to a healthy lifestyle.”
Using only the freshest, locally sourced ingredients, menu options have limited sodium, unhealthy fats and other preservatives so diners have the opportunity to taste the natural flavors of the food while following a healthy diet. With vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, paleo and healthy lifestyle offerings, Negron says each menu “reflects the Mingos style of cooking and flavors yet has a broader offering of cuisines.” Each program offering includes three to five meals a day including a snack and dessert.
For the best of both worlds – a restaurant-quality meal in the privacy of your own home and knowledge that you’re eating a healthy meal – the Mingos healthy lifestyle program makes the right choices for you.


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Written by Lyndsay Fogarty

Lyndsay Fogarty has had many roles at Central Florida Lifestyle, working her way from intern to contributing writer to managing editor. She is a graduate of the University of Central Florida’s Nicholson School of Communication where she earned her degree in journalism. Along the way, she has learned that teamwork and dedication to your craft will get you far, and a positive outlook on the present will get you even farther.

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