9 Pro Tips for Dining Out
With so many Americans now fully vaccinated, and travel and dining restrictions being lifted across the country, people can not wait to resume a sense of normalcy and begin living the way they once did "BC" (Before Covid-19). For most of us this means celebrating holidays and birthdays with our families, backyard barbecues, vacations, dining out (outdoors and indoors) and "happy hours" with friends. However, kicking your social life into high gear can also spell D.I.S.A.S.T.E.R when it comes to maintaining your healthy eating plan and getting yourself "beach body" ready. Read below for 9 "Pro Tips" on how to dine out mindfully and enjoyably without gaining the "post-quarantine 15".
- Planning and preparation are key. Pre-read dinner menus before you leave so you know in ahead of time what you’re going to order and if any modifications are needed. Our clients often send us the restaurant/menu link when they are dining out so we can provide suggestions, substitutions and guidance.
- Skip the breadbasket and pass on the free chips! These are nutritionally void carbohydrates that are just not worth it. Plus, many people end up filling up on the bread or chips before their main meal even arrives.
- American, seafood, Greek and Japanese restaurants usually have the most compliant options available, while pizza, Indian, Chinese and Mexican restaurants are typically the most challenging. Look for places that use locally-raised/grown ingredients to experience the freshest flavors. Grilled fish or chicken over veggies or a beautiful salad can be just as satisfying as a heavy sauce (and regret!)-laden dish.
- Look for restaurants that cater to vegetarians and vegans or have gluten free options- typically they have more interesting healthy food and are accustomed to making dietary accommodations.
- Stay away from the buffet-style restaurants- it’s way too easy to go overboard on portions and eat to the point of feeling stuffed and sluggish. Instead, choose customizable options like a “made-to-order” omelette with loads of veggies and a side of fruit, the green salad bar with grilled chicken or shrimp, or a stir fry station where you can choose your own veggies and lean protein (hold the sauce and rice). If none of these options are available, ask if you can order a la carte.
- Avoid words such as: sautéed, glazed, stuffed, golden, crispy, crunchy, crusted, battered, buttery, creamy. Instead, look for: steamed, poached, roasted, grilled, baked or pan-seared. Ask for sauces, butter, and salad dressing to be omitted and instead opt for lemon wedges (or red/white wine vinegar) and EVOO on the side. Bring your own packets of stevia, coconut aminos, etc- anything portable and compliant to make your meal or beverage more flavorful. We even bring our own compliant dark chocolate for an after-dinner sweet treat so we aren’t tempted by a table full of shared desserts.
- Alcohol is considered "empty calories" which means it contains calories that have zero nutritional value. It is also the second most caloric macronutrient, just after fat. To give context, that means there are about 125 calories in a 5 oz glass of wine, and most restaurant pours are 1.5 times that size! Imagine how quickly this adds up after a couple of hours. We recommend sticking to vodka/tequila + soda with fresh-squeezed lime, alternating cocktails with water, and limiting yourself to just two.
- Portion size is critical! If you’re dying to have a particular dish that may not be the healthiest choice- get an order for the table and serve yourself a small portion on a bread plate. And only indulge if it’s something you’re truly craving; otherwise, pass! Don’t eat unhealthy or “off-plan” foods just because they’re in front of you.
- Eat slowly, savor the food (chew each bite at least 20 times!), and put your fork down periodically throughout the meal – you’ll be shocked how full you feel when you’re focused on the conversation and company, and just not shoveling in the food as quickly as possible.
We hope these tips help to make your dining-out experience as satisfying, not as sabotaging, as possible. Going out to eat should be an enjoyable occasion and a chance for a mindful indulgence, but not a reason to derail all of your hard work and effort over the past few weeks or months. You can have a delicious meal while still eating within your plan- and the good news is, the more you put these tips into practice, the more second-nature they become. Bon appetit, now you may eat!
In good health,
Megan + Robyn