Have you ever felt stressed about decisions on eating out?
It’s a Friday night and you want to go out with some friends and share a meal, but the place your friend chose isn’t quite “health conscious” as you would like. Maybe you feel a little uneasy and now want to skip out, or you may feel that all your hardwork of eating well and moving is going to be blown out of the water with your one meal.
I’m here to say you don’t have to feel this way. You can still enjoy yourself and still make good decisions helping you feel more on track for your fitness and wellness goals while eating out!
Here is a simple guide for how to navigate restaurants with your friends and loved ones and still be able to enjoy yourself.
First step, breathe! These opportunities to spend with loved ones should be cherished and you should be able to enjoy yourself instead of worrying about what food to eat or what to drink. Relax and enjoy yourself!
Next, here are a couple things you can do:
Skip out on sugary drinks and alcohol
It’s always tempting to ask for a soda, juice, or a specialty beverage but this is a great place to make changes. Sugary drinks and soda are full of “empty calories” meaning they have very little to no nutritional value. So they won’t make you feel full or give you the benefit of minerals and vitamins.
On top of this, alcohol metabolizes differently in our body and will ultimately lead to reducing the body’s need to metabolize its own fat stores and can even lead to excess carbs and fats being stored as fat in your body instead of being metabolized readily.
Furthermore, drinking water will help you stay hydrated (which is so unbelievably important) and can help you feel full faster. Simply having one glass of water before your meal can help you to feel more satisfied and full sooner along the course of your meal. Also, consider the amount of calories that you are not consuming by skipping sugary drinks, allowing you to fill yourself with more nutritious choices making you feel better the next day.
Plan for a balanced meal
It’s easy to say that *most* restaurants do not have proper balanced meals on deck. Not only is it challenging to find a balanced plate of protein, complex carbs, and vegetables or fruit; but, those foods are usually cooked with oils high in saturated fat, butter or drenched in dressing and sauces.
These are the secret gremlins. But have no fear! They may not want you to know, but you can substitute anything on your dish. Be bold and make sure the waiter knows exactly how you would like your food prepared! Well maybe not exactly. Let me give you an example: you can always ask how your food is being cooked. Is it sauteed in oil overload? Is it baked? Fried? From here I hope you can see how you can make adjustments.
Personally, whenever I go out, I always ask for my seasonal vegetables to be steamed or sauteed in light oil. Yes, ordering vegetables is good for you. But having them be drenched in oil, sauces or seasoning can dramatically increase your sodium, fat or cholesterol intake. These are a few nutrients that need to be at minimal levels. If you thought you made a better choice by opting for a salad, ask for your dressing on the side. And then dip your fork in your dressing before stabbing that green goodness. You’ll be amazed at how much dressing you’ll have left over!
Pay attention to your portion sizes & pace yourself
Finally, pay attention to your portion sizes! Depending on the restaurant you go to, your meal may be waay bigger than what you need to feel satiated. Try mapping out your food with portion sizes to make sure you are eating a well rounded and balanced meal.
For example, if you have a protein on your plate, whether it is falafel or meat, it should be the size of the palm of your hand. From there, a standard rule is to have ¼ of your plate for complex carbohydrates and ¼ for fruits and/or vegetables. This is a great guideline to follow when it’s not practical to weigh out the food you’re eating. More simply, even separating your food into halves can help you set a good goal of portions. Try eating half now and then save the other half for a meal later!
Take these three tips with you on your next excursion. Whether it’s a night out, brunch or a business lunch – these simple changes can help you stay on track with your fitness goals while eating out, without hindering your chances of having fun.