Eating healthy when you go out is so hard, but you shouldn’t give up! I lost 60 lbs in 1 year, and I didn’t have to stop my lunch dates, dinner celebrations out, or attending social gatherings to do it. My biggest tip for keeping up your social life without putting on all the extra pounds is to plan ahead, but I’ve also learned a few more tricks along the way that I can share with you too!
More often than not I can look at the menu of any restaurant I plan on visiting and plan out my dish (thank you, Internet!). Before you arrive and every one starts talking about how good the menu looks, you are less likely to pig out if you can ignore all that. Most places will have a healthy option on the menu, and by looking in advance, you can skip the menu and order the 1 item you planned on having without being tempted by everything else!
Don’t kid yourself either! If you know you will never enjoy the kale salad, don’t plan to order it. Find something that actually looks tasty but nutritious. You’re less likely to change your mind before the waitress comes.
Now, if it were that easy, more people would do it and restaurants would be full of healthy and balanced meals, but alas no one wants that! You’ll always have more bad options than good, and sometimes you’ll find yourself in a scenario where you can’t Google a menu (like all the summer BBQs and weddings), so here are my best tips for staying healthy when you still want to be social, or for those times when you can’t plan ahead as easily:
Purse Snacks Are for Smarties!
If you don’t carry a purse, I’m sorry! But there is value in a good purse snack, be it a bag of chips, granola bar, or even a fruit leather. I can’t tell you how many times I relied on the quick food of a McDonald’s or Dunkin to get me through a commute when I got hungry; it happens so easily, you get caught in traffic and next thing you know, you’re starving and still an hour from your balanced kitchen. If you have a healthy snack on you, then you’re in luck! It’s always there for you when you need a quick snack.
Worst case scenario, opt for a convenience store or gas station for a quick meal, so you can grab some trail mix or a fruit as opposed to that Big Mac or nuggets.
Request Healthy Alternatives
Most places will let you swap out your pasta or fries for rice or veggies. Always be mindful of the sides you’re offered and ask for a substitute. They might ask if you’re allergic, but you can just explain you are eating healthier and cannot do the carbs and grease (or just say you’re not allergic, they don’t need to know everything!)
Another important tip is if you won’t eat it, don’t get it, and I’m talking about the sides of bread and butter that often accompany any meal. Tell the waiter not to bring the bread. You can do that! Whether it’s a basket for the table that no one wants to eat, or a garlic knot on the side of your entree, just tell them you won’t eat it and they can leave it off. You’ll be less tempted if you don’t see it, and it won’t go to waste just sitting on your table either.
If you’re struggling to find something healthy on the menu, you can always ask for things to be cooked different. Can’t find chicken that isn’t friend or coated in oils? Ask them to grill it or cook it in water. You shouldn’t feel bad or self conscious to ask; they should feel bad for not offering healthy alternatives. It is a problem we all face in America when dining, but it’s easy to modify as you need for your lifestyle.
Drink Water – like a lot of it!
I don’t even think I need to explain this one, but I feel a way about “drinking” calories. It’s not worth it! Just drink water, and drink plenty of it! I always ask for a lemon for extra flavor.
The more you drink before your meal comes out, the more full you will feel by the time your food comes! This will help you slow down if you think you’ll overeat your portions too!
Take a Break to Digest
It takes your body about 20 minutes to alert your brain that it is full, which means there’s a 20-minute delay in eating enough and overeating. Once you’ve eaten what you believe to be the serving you needed, just put the fork down. Wait. Chit chat with your company and see if you are still hungry or if you’re full.
You might hear your tummy growling after you’ve gotten in your meal, but again, that still doesn’t mean you’re hungry. Just take your time, hold onto your plate, and if you still feel hungry in 20 minutes, then you can eat more again. However, you’ll see that you fill up quicker you think.
Grab a To-Go Box
The best way to limit yourself is to do it upfront! Ask for a box when you get your dish and split it up before you dig in. They’ll never give just 1 serving, so don’t kid yourself! Put half of it in the box and out of sight before you eat. If you don’t want to be that extreme, then hold your appetizer plate or ask for a spare to split your dish. You’re more likely to overeat if there is double the portion you should have in front of you (and we all know restaurants aren’t serving us only ‘1’ serving!). By separating it before you eat, you’ll stop when you’re filled, not when you’ve cleared the full plate.
No one is perfect. You don’t have to skip champagne and cake at your best friend’s wedding or ditch your burger bun at the summer barbecues. One bad day does not define the next, and when you work as hard as you have been at maintaining a healthy diet, you can forgive yourself for messing up. Just because you indulged more than you wanted for one meal or even a whole day, you are still killing it, you’re still on fire, and you’re still awesome!