We've been there before. A nutrition god/goddess all week, hell all month, and then Hellooooo dinner out with friends. You’ve been crushing life, meeting your goals and working towards the healthy, more energized, body you’ve dreamed of for years. So what’s one night?
In all seriousness nothing. We’ve somehow been brainwashed with this whole “all or nothing” mentality that one slip up feels like the sky is falling. Hold the phone Chicken Little! You are in control of your choices, and you have the power to make the right one. By planning ahead, you can still be a success at your nutrition journey while dining out with friends/family and that first, or second, piece of cake you ate this month…it doesn’t mean you are a failure. Let me repeat. It doesn’t mean you are a failure. You are human.
With that said, there are several little hacks to stay in your lane while eating out. It just takes, again a little planning, and a little knowledge.
Below are a couple of my favorite tips that help me navigate the menu while dining with a diverse group of people.
Look at the menu ahead of time and decide on your meal
If you know where you will be eating, taking a look at the menu will allow you to make decisions for yourself outside of the peer pressure of others.
You know what I’m talking about. You all sit down, bread is brought to the table with this delicious honey and rosemary butter concoction and your tablemates start talking about appetizers. Appetizers!? But I don’t usually eat an appetizer when I cook at home!
By knowing what your meal for the evening will be, you can make the decision whether or not to participate in the app portion of the meal. If something has caught your eye, you can always have a taste. It’s a night out after all. But if you know you will be enjoying everything brought to the table, you can also balance it out by ordering another appetizer for your meal instead of a grand entrée.
It can also be difficult when you hear your tablemates start to discuss the dishes they are thinking of ordering. If you don’t have a plan, it may sway your decision. So come prepared and you’ll be a step closer to success.
Bypass the bread. Even more, kindly decline when it is brought to your table. Out of sight, out of mind.
Go for grilled over fried or baked.
Double up on veggies
It’s ok to ask for a little customization. If your meal is described with a starchy carb, like potatoes or French fries ask if you can substitute it for double the veggies.
Appetizers make great meals. Often, they are enough for a full meal or can be coupled with one of the side dishes offered a la carte.
Dressing on the side
Male or Female, this is a good choice. The amount of dressing often poured over salads can be overwhelming. By asking for the dressing on the side, you are in control of the serving size. More often than not, a little bit goes a long way.
Olive Oil and Vinegar (not Vinaigrette) is also a good substitute or choice when looking at dressings.
Tomato or olive oil base over cream. This works for both pasta and soup
Ordering a burger or tacos? Ask for lettuce instead of the bun/shell
Are you still hungry after your meal? If not don’t even look at the dessert menu. Even better, tell them to keep that sweet enticing cart AWAY! Farrrr Away!
I’m not going to say never eat dessert. That’s mental! However, if you are full from your meal – do you actually need that colossal piece of cake? Listen to your body - And there’s nothing wrong with splitsies!
Last, but not least – Ask for what you want
If you don’t ask, you’ll never know. At the end of the day, the worst thing they can tell you is NO.
Now this doesn’t mean be a total tool and create an entirely customized dish, but substitutes are ok and often accommodated.
I didn’t touch upon beverages here because honestly, they’re another topic entirely. Mixologists are such talented individuals and many restaurants have creative, intriguing and delicious cocktail menus.
For now, though, let’s agree that...…
- Soda does nothing for you
- Sparkling, or regular, water with lemon/lime is a solid choice
- If looking to stay on your weight loss track, opt for clear alcohols (vodka, gin, tequila blanco) and limited added sugars/juices
- A 6oz glass of wine typically averages about 120-175 calories.
- 12oz of beer usually falls between 50-150 calories, however, a pint is 16oz.
When we break it all down, staying on track is not rocket science. You just have to believe in your ability and know that you are stronger than you think. Hone in on that goal, on what it is you really want, and ask yourself – What am I willing to do to get there? Life is not about cutting out the pleasures we enjoy. We can find balance in moderation – which will allow us to truly appreciate those delicious moments and not go totally haywire and eat the entire town ;)