You are trying to eat healthy. You have it under control when you are at home or work, for the most part. You control the ingredients that go into your food. But what happens when you go out to eat? Do you know how many calories you are consuming? You want to enjoy an evening out without ruining the diet! Don't panic!
Here are some helpful tips to keep the diet in check while having someone else cook for you:
1. If possible, decide where you want to eat ahead of time so you can look up the menu. Sometimes, we are nearly salivating by the time the waiter says, "And what would you like tonight?" that we impulsively blurt out, "loaded nachos to start, cowboy burger with extra bacon and cheddar cheese...no please don't hold the fries..." or something like that. Impulsive ordering gets us in trouble. Have a plan; decide ahead of time if able.
2. Eat a nutritious snack or drink a large glass of water before going to the restaurant. Just as you tend to spend more if you go to the grocery store hungry, you tend to eat more if you go to a restaurant too hungry.
3. I make it a habit to always order water. Drinks can contain many empty calories, especially alcohol. If you really must order a drink besides water, don't forget to mentally note that there are calories in that drink!
4. Ask the waiter to hold the freebies...you know...those carb-loaded little numbers that stare us in the face while we wait for our food, until suddenly that overflowing bread basket is just a basket. If you particularly enjoy bread, or whatever other food item is being served, take a small portion and then ask the waiter to remove the basket.
5. Red sauces over white sauces. Baked/broiled/grilled over fried/breaded. Broth-based soups over cream-based soups. Oil dressings over sweet or creamy dressings. Often you can ask that grilled chicken (or fish) be used instead of the fried chicken they are offering on the menu in a certain dish.
6. Portion sizes are out of control at restaurants. The fancier restaurants with the teeny tiny portions are really on to something. At most places, it is simply too much food. You shouldn't be leaving the restaurant feeling like you need to unbutton your pants or suck in your gut. We really need to learn the feeling of being satisfied. This is different than "full." Either find someone to split the meal with you, or ask that half of the meal be put in a to-go container before it even comes out to you. You just got two meals out of one! Even if you can't possibly stop after a half portion, resist the urge to lick your plate clean. There is nothing wrong with stopping shy of complete and packing up a few bites to-go.
7. Carefully choose your sides. Vegetables are your lowest calorie choice. Sweet potato over white potato, without the brown sugar topping.
8. Ask for all dressings, sauces, butter, oil on the side if possible.
9. A salad is a good choice for a starter. An appetizer is usually as big as a meal should be, so forgo the appetizer, split it, or get it for your meal.
10. If you must splurge, choose an area you want to splurge in. Is the main dish most important to you? Or the appetizer? Or maybe you can't resist dessert? Or you really want that high-calorie drink? Choose one of these areas to splurge in and make sure the rest of your meal is healthy.
11. If you really need that sweet ending to your meal, split a dessert. Better yet, get one dessert for a group. Then you can each have your 1-2 bites and still get that delicious ending to your evening, without breaking the (calorie) bank.
12. If you aren't quite ready to leave the restaurant, don't get dessert simply to justify more time, order a coffee or tea and sip until you are ready to go.
Finally, if you really blow it at dinner, don't give up on your diet. Set tangible goals for the next time someone else is doing the cooking!
Jenna Henault, PA-C