“Let’s go out to dinner!” Restaurants hold so much allure; their appeal is endless. Eating out means no cooking and no clean up. Restaurant dining is an adventure and a fun activity with family and friends. It’s social. It’s relaxing. It is a chance to try new dishes and interesting foods.
Restaurants even hold some cache – we like to say we tried the newest “in” place or tasted the new hip cuisine. Some restaurants hold memories from childhood or remind of us of meaningful events. We all have special places we go to that just make us feel good.
But, for those of us trying to be true to weight loss goals, restaurants can be the bump in the road that tosses us right off the weight management wagon. Don’t worry; I am not going to tell you that you should not be going out to eat. But I am going to give you some tips about how to do it and still be true to your weight loss goals.
- Pick your restaurant wisely. Pick a restaurant that you know offers healthy options. This might mean avoiding restaurants with names like “All Pasta, All The Time” or “If You Can Eat It, We Can Fry It.” Most places will have some healthy alternatives such as grilled or baked chicken, meat or fish or even a good salad bar.
- Plan your order in advance. Find the restaurant’s menu online before you go and decide what you will order. Sure, it might take a tiny bit of the fun out of the experience, but it will also alleviate the pressure of making an unhealthy decision in the moment when you are hungry and inclined to just give into your cravings.
- Order off the menu. If you find that your healthy options are limited (and by healthy, I mean protein and vegetables), don’t be afraid to request the kitchen accommodate your needs. Most restaurants will happily grill a chicken breast and provide steamed vegetables, even if they do not appear on the menu that way. Restaurants typically offer grilled chicken on salads and vegetables as part of other dishes, so preparing them for you should not be out of the ordinary.
- Make substitutions. If your meal comes with potatoes, rice or other carbs you are hoping to avoid, simply ask if the restaurant can make a substitution and provide vegetables or a side salad instead.
- Decline the bread. Removing the temptation is the easiest route. Of course that is not always possible when others you are with want the bread. In that case, just move it as far away as possible and try not to concern yourself with it.
- Control your portion size. If you order a full size portion, consider dividing it in half before you even begin eating. Some people even like to ask for a takeout box for half their meal before they start. You will be happy to have the second half the next day.
- Don’t drink your calories. Try to avoid soda, juice and alcohol which can add unnecessarily to your calorie count and your hunger level. Good substitutes? Water with lemon or seltzers if you need (and can tolerate) the fizz.
- Skip dessert. Save your money and your calories. If you are craving a sweet end to your meal, try a kiddie size or a fat free frozen yogurt at your local ice cream shop after dinner to take the edge off and extend the fun of your evening.
- Discuss your plan with your dining companion beforehand. If you are dining with a family member or friend, and feel comfortable doing so, let him or her know how you plan to handle your meal before you go.
Bon Appetite! Eating out can be fun and successful if you remember these tips and use them to your advantage. Good luck and have fun.
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