For most people, eating out is a struggle when they’re trying to lose weight.
Maybe you feel like your options are limited or if you make a “healthy” choice, you’re making a sacrifice and won’t enjoy it.
Sure, we all know that we could get a salad or a burger without the bun and if that’s the extent of the options we think we have, of course we feel limited! There are so many other creative ways to enjoy eating out, love your food and feel great after you eat it!
Now, it doesn’t mean that its going to be perfect. It doesn’t mean that it would be as “clean” as if you were to make it at home, but you can feel like you are really enjoying your food, you’re not eating like a bird, you’re not missing out and you’re also not saying “screw it, let’s do it” – but “screw it, lets do it” isn’t always out of the question.
I don’t want you to think that the message of this article is you can never go to your favorite restaurant and have the best chocolate cake in the world, go do that. What I’m talking about here are those regular restaurant visits – not your birthday, not your anniversary, not those time where you really want to indulge and have dessert – where you can make choices that support your goals and feel great about what you have just eaten.
I would like to introduce 4 new strategies that I like to use when I eat out:
- Sometimes its easier to make great choices off the appetizer menu; not for the sake of eating LESS. Often you can choose a couple of appetizers, or an appetizer and an entrée to come out together as your “main meal.” Generally, on the appetizers menu you will see lots of protein and healthy fat options like – chicken satay, bacon wrapped asparagus, oysters, chicken wings etc. if you don’t feel like its enough food for you, get two. Another one is charcuterie which is on many appetizer menus, get that. Meat and cheese and then maybe a salad. Be open to those kinds of solutions.
- Related to the parts of the menu you don’t often look at; this is generally the pasta or the rise dishes we try to stay away from because we don’t even want to be tempted by anything there. We aren’t necessarily looking at the pasta here because often the reason for eating the pasta is what goes on top of it, it is the vehicle for whatever goes with it. You can always ask for the topping or sauce to be put over more vegetables for e.g. creamy sauces, marinara, Bolognese, chicken carbonara etc. Most places will work with you on that.
- Similar to number 2 but with Mexican; what we love most about the taco/burrito/fajita/enchilada is the filling correct? So, we can ask for the filling to be put over salad or vegetables. Of course, you can just eat the filling out of the shell, but you want it to be more substantial than that. You want to add vegetables or salad with the filling on top.
- Disclaimer “this might not be right for you” if when I share this strategy, you start thinking about restriction, so that you can overindulge, this might not be the right option for you. However, another strategy that you can use if you know that you are going out to dinner, is to fast until then.
Here is why I say that, this is not a strategy of restrict, restrict, restrict, binge or overindulge or splurge, that’s not what it is at all. What it is, is the awareness that you are probably consuming much more energy at a dinner out, especially if you know that you are going to have two courses, or a drink or dessert.
That’s basically just as much energy that you would consume on a normal day when you are eating at home. So, if I was going to a restaurant for dinner and knew that I might want an appetizer, entrée and maybe dessert or drink, I have no problem fasting until then, not to justify splurging at all, but from an understanding of what my body needs for fuel and not wanting to give my body more fuel than it needs.
But if you are seeing this as all or nothing, on or off, restrict then binge…please never ever try this and if you do, you are choosing a pattern of behavior that does not set you up for success. Please don’t do that, but if you can look at it like; I’m going to be working all day, sitting on my butt, which doesn’t require a whole lot of energy and I am going to have a substantial meal later, then just take it easy.
The obvious strategies that I didn’t go into detail are, but might need practice from you;
- Take leftovers; don’t feel like you need to finish it because you spent money on it. Get two meals out of one. Have a really amazing lunch to look forward to tomorrow. Most of us understand that we can do that, but how practiced are you at doing that? Actually asking to take home the leftovers…or when you get to the point of being full but you are really enjoying the meal, don’t sit there umm and ahh and pick at it until its all gone, be decisive, ask for takeaway and put it in the box immediately.
- If you want to avoid a dish that comes with chips, toast, potatos or something that you don’t want to eat; ask for it to be left off the plate. Sometimes you might want to challenge your willpower and have it there on the plate, so it can test out your commitment or your follow through, but other times why make it harder for yourself, please take it off.
I know you know these things, but at the risk of being repetitive here, how practiced are you?
It doesn’t have to be perfect. Make the best choice for you that will leave you feeling satisfied, something that you will really enjoy and not leave you feeling like you are missing out. Make the best choices, where you are not leaving the restaurant feeling stuffed, like “oh why did I do that, I feel awful, I went overboard.”
The more you practice these strategies, the more you will feel comfortable in making the right choices for you in that moment, and to support your long-term goals.