Eating out can be challenging for a healthy eater, but that doesn't mean it is impossible. It means that you take the tools that you are utilizing in your day-to-day routine, and apply them to someone else's kitchen. If the objective is to eat real food (food that grows in the ground, or walked around) and more plants than anything else, you can do it practically anywhere, with a little know-how.
Tip #1: Keep the menu closed for a minute.
Sitting down at a restaurant, it is easy to lose the connection with the body that drives healthy choices. We are distracted, excited, or otherwise not paying attention to what our bodies actually NEED in the moment, and allow the menu suggestions to offer what we think we WANT. I suggest taking a moment before opening the menu, or even on the way to the restaurant, to connect with your intuition and ask what is it that I really need right now? You may be surprised at the response, which often makes the following tips even easier to implement.
Tip #2: Check out the sides FIRST.
The number one most missing food in the average American's diet is leafy greens. We have been raised to think of them as sides, when really they should be taking center stage at every meal. I always check out the sides first so I know what veggies I can count on to load up my plate.
Tip #3: Use an appetizer as your entreé.
We all know that most entreés are actually 2 or more portions of food, and so the appetizer plates are often more suitable for a one-person serving. Add it to your side of veggies, and you have a full, more balanced plate.
Tip #4: The salad entreé.
If you don't want to go with the app + side option, try a salad that is a meal. Most restaurants that offer salads have the option of adding chicken, fish, shrimp or even beans to create a more balanced plate that can serve as a complete meal.
Tip #5: Wrap up half of your entreé before you start eating.
A single portion of meat, poultry or fish is the size and thickness of your palm (about 3 1/2 - 4 ounces). If you do order an entreé that is bigger than a portion (I have seen dishes come out of the kitchen that are literally FOUR portions of chicken - that's dinner for the week!), then carve out your portion and ask the waitstaff to wrap the remainder immediately - not after you have nibbled away at it bit by bit, essentially eating the whole thing by dinner's end.
Tip #6: Play it backwards.
Think about balancing your DAY in addition to balancing your plate. If you know you are eating out for dinner, then play the day backwards, and plan accordingly. For example, if I know I am going to eat meat, fish or pasta for dinner, then I will be more likely to choose a smoothie instead of a muffin for breakfast, or a salad instead of a wrap for lunch.
Tip #7: Infuse your food with positive intentions.
While we might not all be saying grace aloud, that doesn't mean that we can't take a moment to be grateful for the people and animals who made the meal possible, and set an intention for the food to nourish and heal us. If this seems like it won't make a difference, check out the incredible research of Masaru Emoto and his work on the living properties of water. When you think about the fact that we are 70% water, this becomes more fact than wishful thinking.
The real key to eating out is to be easy on yourself. It isn't going to be the same as home cooking, so do your best and know that every meal is a chance to make a choice that your body will be happy with. Every meal is an opportunity to show your body how well you can nourish it, and this is possible, even in someone else's kitchen.