Save Yourself From Calorie Overload With These Patio Food Swaps

When the weather heats up, we often flock to restaurant patios, which can sometimes mean indulging more than usual. A nice cocktail or some ice cream can be very tempting when hanging out with friends, but patio season doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your healthy diet! We have patio season menu tips with dietitian Christy Brissette.
 Common Patio Season Pitfalls (and tips to avoid them):
There are 3 things you want to watch out for: calorie-loaded cocktails, enormous appetizers and health hoaxes.
1. Calorie-Loaded Cocktails
 Summer patio drinks tend to be loaded with empty calories. Here are some of the worst choices on the menu and how to lighten them up.
Frozen Margarita: 500 calories
That’s 1 hour of running!
Strawberry Daiquiri: 700 calories
That’s 3 hours of brisk walking!
Pitfall: Alcohol gets your guard down. Despite best intentions to eat well, the more you drink, the more you’ll let go and take in major calories.
The Solution - Skinny Cocktails:

  • Ask the server/bartender to make your fave cocktail “skinny” by omitting the sugar. 
  • Get a rum and Diet Coke or vodka soda and ask for extra lemon and lime wedges for flavour
  • Ask for a skinny raspberry mojito: just rum, soda water, mint, lime and raspberries for natural sweetness and flavour.
  • Between cocktails, slow down and sip on sparkling water with lemon or unsweetened iced tea

2. Enormous Appetizers 
Appetizers can ring in at up to 3000 calories. Share with even 6 friends and have a few drinks and you could be taking in 1000 calories without even knowing it!
For example, at one popular patio: 2600 calories for chorizo nachos with 175 grams of fat, over 4000 mg of sodium! 1200 calories for potato skins or poutine, 60 grams of fat, over 3000 grams of sodium.
Pitfall: sodium in appetizers makes you thirsty so you drink your cocktail or beer even faster than you meant to. You know what that means – even more calories!
The Solution – Best Patio Menu Picks
Best bets for healthier patio options to save hundreds (or thousands) of calories

  • Edamame
  • Chicken skewers
  • Fresh rolls
  • Grilled shrimp
  • Grilled calamari
  • --> Get a garden or Greek salad with dressing on the side and eat that first.

3. Health Hoaxes

  • Don’t be fooled by menu items that seem healthy but aren’t!
  • People think dips like bean dip, spinach dip are healthy but they can be loaded with fat and sodium.
  • Even the hummus can be loaded up with oil and offer little in terms of protein.
  • Watch out for sweet potato fries. The deep frying undoes any health benefits from the vitamin A.
  • Tapas: the plates are smaller and the idea is to try and taste different things rather than fill up. Big on taste but can also be high calorie. The illusion that tapas are healthier may make you eat more. Think of tapas as a nibble vs. a meal.

The Solution – Scope Out the Menu

  • Look at the menu in advance and decide what you want to order. That can help you plan healthier options and sometimes you can even look up the calorie info.
  • If all else fails, order a salad with a protein source and dressing on the side to fill up. Then you can try a few bites of any share plates.