Eating out is fun, and with a little planing, you can still be eating healthy while eating out. And why wouldn’t you? Gathering around for a meal has long brought families together for hours of conversation over endless bowls of our favorite dishes. Once in a while it is nice to shut down the kitchen and give Mom and Dad a break from chopping, stirring and cleaning.
Trying out great new restaurants or visiting your old favorites is no doubt exciting, relaxing and rejuvenating. However, what we don’t often realize is how excited our palates become when these tasty treats in their most perfect presentation are brought out in front of us. Before we know it, we have devoured the last bite consuming more calories than imagined.
Enjoying good food is a must. Enjoying new food is a necessity.
So if you are one that loves restaurant hopping, keep at it!! Life is too short not to enjoy the simple pleasures! To avoid spiraling down an unhealthy lifestyle, plan ahead!
The following may seem like simple suggestions, but I assure you simplicity will bring about longevity!
- Decide the restaurant early. Knowing what type of food will be ordered will help you be aware of the amount of carb, protein, and fat in that item. If you anticipate a great Italian Bistro where carbs are in very selection, plan to decrease carb intake couple days prior to the outing. Most restaurants offer apps that allow you to search the menu as well as nutritional values. Making good choices comes from being educated.
- Hydrate.This should be your staple even when you don’t plan to go out. 90 oz of water /day helps keep cellular function performing at optimal levels. Avoid any water substitutes and go for the plain H2O.
- Eat a small protein snack one-two hours before anticipated meal time. Protein intake helps keep the balance of insulin and glucose. This results in longer satiety and decreased cravings. Good examples are almonds, string cheese, fruit, slice of meat, peanut butter, hummus etc.
- Check out the menu beforehand. If you know you will not be leaving that table until you have had that favorite 1000 calorie dessert, then scale back on appetizers and entrée. Yes you can have your cake and eat it too, but only in moderation. You don’t want to wake up the next morning with a sugar laden hangover.
- Don’t be afraid to ask the server. Ask the server how the food is being prepared. Ask them if they use butter, cream or any other high fat substitutes to give it that rich mouthwatering flavor. Ask to speak to the chef if you are not satisfied with the answer. Even if they think you are one of “those” customers, it doesn’t matter because ultimately, you are only accountable to yourself. So take ownership and be ok asking!
- Avoid “low carb” options and high carb temptations. Anything that claims “free or low carb,” STAY AWAY! To take something out and still have it taste so good, means something else has to be put in. That something else is likely to be highly processed ingredients that do you no good. Better to go for the real stuff in smaller quantities. Also skip the bread basket. It’s not worth it!
- Double the veggies. Just because it doesn’t say it on the menu, doesn’t mean you can’t ask. Ask for double quantity of veggies-steamed or broiled, NOT FRIED. Even if it costs a few pennies more, it is well worth it.
- Watch out for the salad temptation. Of course the vegetables in the salad are healthy, but the croutons, cheese, dressing, not so much. Salad toppings may seem insignificant, but what we may not realize is that these innocent munchies turn out to be the biggest culprits of our weight gain. Have you seen how many grams of fat are in ONE tablespoon of dressing? A LOT! You know they don’t stop at one tablespoon. So is it really worth ruining all of your hard work with something that is not even the main meal? Ask for dressing on the side.
- Skip the alcohol. Alcohol consumption causes an increase appetite and not to mention increase in empty calories. If you absolutely must have a drink with your meal, choose red or white wine limited to 1x glass. For every one sip of wine, take 3-5 large gulps of water. Chances are you won’t even be able to finish that one glass. Avoid the fruity cocktails. Choose your calories wisely.
- Dress up nicely. Who would have thought right? Research has shown when you take the time and effort to dress nicely and are happy with what you see in the mirror, you will be less likely to make poor dietary choices. If dressing up is a time consuming process for you, you may not be keen to put in the effort just for going out. And in the long run, less eating out means less consumption of unwanted calories.
- Walk off the guilt. If your willpower happened to get the best of you, don’t sweat it. We are all human. We all have cravings. It’s ok! If you still can’t shake the guilt, take a brisk walk outside and breathe knowing you can start over with the next meal. We ALL go through these times when we know better, but we choose otherwise. Following the 80-20 rule can help with any feelings of guilt. Focus on mindful eating 80% of the time and look forward to the other 20% when you know you’ve earned it!
Indulgences are part of life’s greatest joys. Don’t deprive yourself of a little happiness. Eating out is more than just about watching calories. It is the opportunity to kindle relationships and foster new ones.
Food is nourishment. It is our greatest ally, not our worst enemy. Savor each bite because you know you have earned it. And when you have taken that last bite, set yourself back on that right path until you can look forward to it again!