As with anything in life, you realize there isn’t anyone that has your best interest in mind quite the way you should.
This isn’t necessarily a negative, it’s just that you have the power—and should wield it responsibly—for you. In everything you do, everywhere you go, every choice you make: make it yours. This goes for your health, as well; you can maintain your healthy lifestyle, and adhere to making healthier choices in all situations. Including restaurants.
Part of the challenge when eating out is letting go of our health standards and indulging in choices that aren’t supportive of our usual standards of healthy fair. For one, it is quite tricky to make healthy choices because most restaurants follow the Standard American Diet, which is laden in salts, sugars, and fats. Flavors and bases and additives have been increased over time to keep upping the entertainment value of food and flavor with our deadening tastebuds and addicted brains that want: MORE. More of everything. More flavor, more kick, more on our plates. A snapshot of the “more” craze: hamburgers have expanded by 23 percent; A plate of Mexican food is 27 percent bigger; Soft drinks have increased in size by 52 percent; Snacky foods, whether they be potato chips, pretzels or crackers, are 60 percent larger. And without a doubt, larger portion sizes have become larger body sizes.
So, how do you enjoy a night off from slaving away in the kitchen without jeopardizing your waistline? Here are eight tips that will ensure you wake up the next day without bloat, regret, and other unsavory potential “afters” from restaurant fare:
1. Rare and extravagant:
We coach our clients to create a “later list” of rare and extravagant foods that aren’t on a “contributing to health” plan, but they still want in their lives. At most, we choose from this list once every two to four weeks. The key is to make a plan for it, never allow it to be a “carried away in the moment” indulgence. The key to any lifelong success plan is to be mindful and intentional with every choice you make and every bite you take.
2. Dressing on the side, always:
A salad can swiftly equal or surpass the fat and calories of a cheeseburger when dressing is added, vinaigrette included.
3. Skip the bread basket:
That is all. Is it ever worth the bloated wheat belly afterward? If you can’t resist, cut the smallest portion possible and savor the bite or two it provides. Anything more is feeding your lizard brain and she’ll take over and you won’t know what hit you until the basket is empty and you have to unbutton your pants.
4. Ask how a dish is prepared:
This is your experience and you have every right to ask how foods are prepared. No need to wrinkle up your nose, the system is broken and there are plenty of reasons to be frustrated, but it can only be changed over time by patrons who make healthier choices. Vote by choice, vote with your money. Ask if butter or oil is added to rice or baked potatoes. Ask if the veggies are steamed without oil (you would be surprised how often oil is added to “healthy”).
5. Get it baked: Or get it steamed.
6. Either or rule:
Back to the rare and extravagant list: never consume more than one item from that list in one sitting, so that means you’ll have to say no to desert if you’ve said yes to a savory dish. One restaurant bender can throw off your weight and health for more than a week. Think long and hard before choosing what you put in your body. Always ask yourself if the few minutes it stays in your mouth is worth days of repercussions.
7. Two bite rule:
If you desire something off of your regular health plan, savoring one or two bites is often all you need. If the people sharing your table really love you, they’ll let you take your one or two little bites from their plates, in addition to your salad or steamed/raw veggies.
8. Portion control:
It’s pretty amazing how little food we actually need compared to how much we consume. You will most likely be served 50% to 75% more than your body requires or can use. You can request a half-plate, share a dish with friends, or request half of the meal be boxed before it even hits your plate. And then listen, always listen, to your body’s cues that it is satisfied.
9. Avoid fast food:
It doesn’t count as food, anyway. Heck, if you are going to go all high fat and calorie, make it worth it! Make it mama’s home-cooked enchiladas, or whatever else it may be, just make it good. Fast food is good for a few things, yes: spike in blood sugar, bloating and puffiness (inflammation which is a toxin storage ground), heart strain, insulin resistance, spike in blood pressure, shortness of breath, acne, and depression… just to name a few.
10. Stay present:
We often eat out at restaurants in groups, with lots of banter and distractions—which is the best part of the experience! But research suggests we eat far more than necessary when we aren’t fully present to each bite. Stay present with each bite you take, and in tune with your body. And, by all means, indulge in the company. That’s where life’s magic awaits.