Natural. Organic. Juice Bar.
These words were prominently displayed outside the cafe I used to work at. The menu contained an abundance of gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian options which appealed to both health conscious customers and those who had specific dietary preferences.
The majority of the menu consisted of healthy options like salads, vegetable dishes, and clean animal protein.
But it also consisted of an array of "I'm going to feel disgusting afterwards" indulgences, such as massive slices of cheesy lasagna, sugary milkshakes, and the biggest cupcakes I've ever seen.
3 Mistakes to Avoid When Dining at a Healthy Restaurant
Below are the top 3 mistakes I saw our customers make so you can learn from them and instead make more educated decisions the next time you go out to eat.
MISTAKE #1: ASSUMING THAT EVERYTHING ON THE MENU IS HEALTHY, ESPECIALLY ITEMS LABELED "VEGAN" OR "GLUTEN-FREE"
Think for yourself and don't get seduced by those sexy buzzwords. At the cafe, most of the vegan dishes contained soy, all of the salad dressings contained sugar, and half the entrees were completely covered in cheese. And remember, a vegan, gluten-free cupcake is still a cupcake, so be responsible and treat it as such!
MISTAKE #2: EATING MORE FOOD THAN YOU TYPICALLY WOULD BECAUSE IT'S ALL "HEALTHY"
It's easy to eat beyond the point of satiety, even with healthy food. Be mindful of portion sizes when dining out (even at a "healthy" place), as the meals you get are typically big enough to feed at least two people. The best rule of thumb to know when you've had enough is to stop eating before you feel stuffed. Listen to your body and eat until you're about 80% full so you feel light and satisfied afterward instead of feeling heavy and tired.
MISTAKE #3: ORDERING SMOOTHIES AND SHAKES AS BEVERAGES INSTEAD OF MEALS
I was shocked at the number of customers who would order an appetizer, a main entree, a smoothie or a milkshake (as their drink), and a dessert! Many people drink their calories and then are confused as to why they're not losing weight. Think of a smoothie as a meal (preferably for breakfast or before/after a workout) and a milkshake as a dessert (to be shared as a treat infrequently). These sugary drinks should not be consumed with a meal if your intention is to make healthy decisions while dining out.
The Bottom Line:
When you're dining at a "healthy" restaurant, remember there's a good chance that some of the menu items will be unhealthy, so it's up to you to identify which ones they are and order accordingly.
If you really want to indulge and order a dessert or a cheesy, bready piece of comfort, do so but don't fool yourself into thinking that what you're eating is healthy just because the sign outside says "organic" or the menu says "gluten-free". To make an indulgent meal healthier, eat a smaller amount (share it with a friend or take part of it home) and eat it slower so you can truly savor the rich flavor of each bite.
Remember that what you eat at a restaurant (even a "healthy" restaurant) is likely not going to be as healthy as the food you prepare for yourself. Be responsible with your decisions, don't be afraid to ask the server questions about the food, and most of all, remember to relax and enjoy yourself!