One of the things I’ve always struggled with while trying to become a healthier individual and lose weight is eating at restaurants. We’ve never been particularly wealthy, so we don’t go out very often; dining out is special for us, and we like to make it count. We like to splurge when we go out because it’s something fun and different. I used to make date nights my “cheat meal” for the week, and that “cheat meal” turned in a disastrous cheat week. I have cheat meals every once in a while now, but usually it’s a cheat item like a frozen yogurt with Reese’s and I just call it food, not a cheat. That’s a discussion for another post. My love and I are having a lunch date today, and it got me thinking about how to decide where to go and what to order.
There are many ways that I combat overeating and falling off the wagon at restaurants, but these five are pretty standard every time I go out.
1.) Decline the bread basket at the table. One of my favorite places to grab some grilled protein with veggies is Logan’s Roadhouse. Oh my gods. I love Logan’s. I also love their rolls a little too much. I’m from the South, and there’s probably nothing more delicious with dinner than a big ol’ buttered yeast roll. Logan’s knows what’s up. Anyway, I try to let the server know before I even eat that I don’t want any rolls on the table. Of course, they look at me like I’m possessed by a demon or something, but it’s effective. If you really want bread and it’s just going to make you feel like you missed out for the next week, take some bread, but don’t eat the whole loaf of sourdough with olive oil and herbs at Zio’s. A little, not a lot. You’re about to fill your tummy with the real deal! Leave some room.
2.) Look up the nutritional information and choose your entree before you arrive. Put the blinders on. You won’t even have to look at the menu and be enticed by all the pictures of non-edible items dressed up to look like delicious food. (Seriously, that’s why a Big Mac doesn’t look like a Big Mac when you get it at the window.) Before I go out to eat anywhere, I find a menu and as much nutritional information as possible to make a good decision. I look for meals high in protein and lower in carbs and saturated fats. Most chain restaurants are catering to those who want to change their lifestyles now by offering a low calorie menu or a portion of the menu affiliated with Weight Watchers.
3.) Don’t drink your calories. We add so many unnecessary calories, chemicals, and sugars to our meals by choosing soft drinks over water or tea at restaurants. I usually order unsweet tea and sweeten it myself so that I know how much sugar is actually in it. The same is true for alcoholic beverages; they contain an ungodly amount of sugar! Look up the nutritional value of your favorite drinks before you go and see what you can fit into your lifestyle. Just like the new, healthier entree options, most chains now offer “skinny” margaritas and cocktails. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
4.) If all of that falls through and you’re at the only joint in town that literally has no dish under 1,000 calories and doesn’t accommodate healthy eaters, don’t be afraid to order something that doesn’t exist on the menu. Order a la carte. Don’t be afraid to ask for something because you think you’ll be an inconvenience. You’re paying them to serve you great food! I’ve been known to go to Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurants and order soup and a chicken taco with a corn tortilla, plus a side of black beans. The only person who can decide what you eat is you!
5.) Relax! Even if you find yourself with few options or if you have a misunderstanding and accidentally order and eat the wrong thing, you’ll be fine. Yeah, if you overeat at dinner you will probably weigh in a little heavier, but it’s likely that the weight is nothing but water retained by high sodium meals found at most restaurants. Just don’t let that mistake turn into a “screw it” mentality. Stressing leads to weight gain anyway. Live a little.
I’m considering sharing some of this information with my coworkers and colleagues in our next newsletter, but we’ll see. There are a few other ideas on the table.
By the way, if you’re one of the few people reading this and you’ve got a question I’ve never addressed, ask away! I’d love to start an FAQ from my personal experiences.