By: Kelly Atyeo, B.A.Sc., M.H.Sc., P.H.Ec.
Eating outside the home is a huge part of North American culture. In Canada, approximately 17 million people visit restaurants daily.1 Many people perceive dining out as a treat or special occasion, while others choose to eat out because they are on-the-go and for convenience.1
What is one thing that takes most of our time away from us? WORK!
Work is an important part of your life and often pushes you into that “on-the-go” world where eating out becomes a common practice. Travelling for business or attending lunch meetings can sometimes make you forget what your kitchen looks like! When work pulls you away from more home-cooked meals than you would like, it is important to focus on nutrition when eating outside the home.
Business Trips & Meetings
Sometimes work has you eating out almost every day. This can really impact your nutritional intake. Research shows that people tend to underestimate the amount of calories, fat, and sodium in less healthy options on restaurant menus.2 If you think that you are only eating 1,000 calories, when in fact you are eating double that amount, this can lead to unintended weight gain. Additionally, if you’re eating more saturated fat and sodium and not enough healthy vitamins and minerals, your overall health will be affected.
Here are some tips to help you be business AND nutrition savvy:
Check the Nutrition Info
Treat eating out for business as if you were eating healthy in your own home. Since you aren’t preparing the meal, you need to take extra steps to be aware of the nutritional value of your meal. Most restaurants post nutrition information of their menu items on their website. Beforehand, select a healthy option to have at the restaurant. Look for menu items that aren’t loaded with calories, salt, and fat.
Talk to the Waiter!
Ask the waiter how the food is prepared. If you’re having meat, chicken or fish, request that you have it grilled or lightly pan seared without butter. Also, if you order a salad, ask for the dressing on the side. This helps reduce the amount of fat and calories you’d be adding to your healthy greens without even knowing. If there’s an option to add a protein, choose a lean protein source like skinless chicken breast, which only has 2 grams of fat/serving. Keep in mind: this dinner is replacing your healthy meal at home!
Make sure you know how much you will be getting. It is common for portions at restaurants to be supersized. The issue with this is often people feel compelled to eat everything on their plate. There’s no shame in asking for the meal to be portioned out. If you’re on a business trip, keep the leftovers in the hotel fridge for lunch the next day, or simply ask for a smaller portion.
Kitchen Away from Home
When booking hotels, choose one that has a kitchenette. This way if you are in the mood to prepare something yourself, you can make a lunch or light dinner. Find a grocery store and buy some easy to prepare foods. There are plenty of healthy options in grocery stores including: ready-made salads, whole grain bread, lean low sodium deli meats (preservative free), and fresh fruit. You could even buy a whole rotisserie chicken and keep it in the hotel mini fridge to add to salads or sandwiches. Whole chicken stays fresh for 2-3 days in the refrigerator, so this is a perfect option for shorter business trips.3
Keep healthy snacks in your car, briefcase or purse. Listen to your body and eat when you are hungry. This will reduce the chances of becoming so hungry that you throw caution to the wind when you are ordering food at a restaurant. You will also be more productive at work because your blood sugar levels will be normalized so you don’t crash midday.
Whether you’re working from home, away on business, or in-and-out of the office, your health is what keeps you able to do your job. Take care of yourself and focus on nutrition as an important part of your career.
- Canadian Restaurant and Food Association. (2010). Canada’s Restaurant Industry: Putting jobs and economic growth on the menu. Retrieved March 2, 2013
- Burton, S., Creyer, E.H., Kees, J., & Huggins, K. (2006). Attacking the obesity epidemic: the potential health benefits of providing nutrition information in restaurants. American Journal of Public Health, 96(6), 1669-1675.
- Chicken Farmers of Canada. (2012). Cooking/Food Safety at Home: Storage and Thawing Guide. Retrieved May 29, 2013