For many, life is beginning to look a bit more “normal” after too many months of 2020, and that may mean more dining out with family and friends. One of the biggest questions I hear from my friends and clients these days is how to navigate a fun meal out without overdoing it or falling completely off of their health goals. As we move into cooler months, with less cookouts and BBQ’s, and more opportunities to dine out, I thought this might be a great topic to address.
Who doesn’t love dining out? Having someone wait on you, cook for you, and the chance to order dishes you might never prepare at home! Being able to relax and just enjoy good food and company without the worry of shopping, cooking, or cleaning up-so much fun! But for many that are trying to stick to a healthy lifestyle, dining out can bring many challenges. Portion sizes are usually massive, ingredients tend to be super rich, and we truly have no way of knowing exactly what, and how much, we are consuming.
The first thing to remember when dining out is to focus on enjoying your food and company without over-indulging. Pay more attention to your companions and savoring every bite, and you will find yourself more relaxed, and more mindful of what you eat. Dining out should be more about experiencing all of your senses-the different tastes, the aromas, the music, the lighting, and the mood-and less about filling your stomach. Relax, discuss the foods, try bites of different foods, and be fully aware of everything around you.
Fortunately, most restaurants offer their menus for online viewing and ordering. Take advantage of this by looking at it the menu ahead of time and coming up with a game plan for how you will order and eat. This can remove the stress of trying to come up with the perfect plan while others are talking or discussing what they might order. Have a back up plan as well, just in case a menu item has sold out or isn’t available. Plan your meal based on a healthy protein source, veggies or salad, or even a healthy soup to begin your meal. Avoid the breadbasket, and ask to have your soup or salad brought before the entrée.
Don’t Starve Yourself!
Heading into a restaurant with an empty stomach and uncontrollable hunger is NOT a good idea! I’ve known many people that decided to not eat all day so that they could indulge at a dinner out, and it never goes very well. Plan to eat small, balanced meals throughout the day to avoid a situation in which you are hungry, cranky, and not thinking clearly. This can lead to overeating, and even binge eating.
Avoid “Bad” Words!
When deciding on your meal of choice, try to avoid the “bad” words. These words include “deep fried”, “rich”, “buttery”, “creamy”, and “battered”, just to name few. Instead, look for words like “fresh”, “farm grown”, and “lean”. Knowing the proper language can make choosing a meal so much easier.
Balance Your Plate
Be sure that your plate includes many colors, and a variety of nutrients. Base your meal on a healthy protein, and fill the remainder of your plate by ordering fresh veggies and a healthy grain like a rice dish, sweet potato, or baked potato. Ask for toppings, dressings, sauces, and condiments to be on the side so that you can control how much is on your food. *Did you know? Many restaurants use over 3 tablespoons of butter when serving a baked potato???? That’s 300 calories and 36 grams of fat in just a topping!!!!
Consider ½ To Go
This is one of my favorite tips for eating out! I’ve done this many times, and I’ve also had many times that I wished I had done so!
Ask for half of your meal to be placed in a carry out container before it even comes to the table. Portions are SO huge, and most can easily be divided into more than one meal-take half for lunch the next day! This allows you to focus on conversation and company, without the sudden realization that “Oh, NO, I ate ALL of it!” I have found myself in this situation-stuffed uncomfortably, barely realizing I was eating, and not feeling great after-even into the next day. I LOVE having leftovers for lunch the next day-and leaving dinner without feeling stuffed.
Because dining out is an experience that is to be enjoyed, be sure to indulge in small amounts of yumminess! Have a small taste of the appetizers, try a side portion of a new item on the menu, and yes-grab a fork and share the dessert! Everything is allowed in MODERATION!! Taste, enjoy, roll your eyes back in your head and say, “Ohmygosh, that is SO good!” But do it in moderation!!!
Make the Toast
Alcohol is a HUGE conversation with clients these days-absolutely HUGE. Due to that, I have done a great deal of research on the subject, and come up with a list of “healthier” drinks to avoid high calorie and high sugar intake. Sugar content in many alcohol beverages is super high, and I have found that for many that focus on healthy eating, the sugar hangover can be worse than the average alcohol hangover-even in small amounts of indulging. To avoid this, focus on spirits with low sugar content like tequila, vodka, and gin, and be sure your mixer of choice is not full of sugar as well. Avoid simple syrups and pre-made mixers, and focus on fresh juices or sugar free sodas. Keep in mind-alcohol slows your metabolism, and processes in the body AS a sugar.
Most importantly-stay hydrated! For each alcohol-based beverage, have a glass of water. You will thank me in the morning!
Be Mindful and Enjoy
Dining out is a fun activity that should be enjoyed completely and fully. Keep this in mind, plan and order carefully, and relax and enjoy! I truly believe that while our nutritional intake should be a clean as possible much of the time, food can also be an adventure of tastes that should be relished. Keeping the adage “everything in moderation” completely applies here. Be mindful of your meal and your company, embrace all that comes with it, and enjoy without overdoing.
If you’d like more info about finding your perfect, personalized health plan or reaching your goals, I’d love to help you on your journey! Let’s talk!