Going out for a meal is a challenge for a lot of people who are trying to eat healthier. First question I would ask is ~ do you make healthier choices at home? That’s the place to begin so that you really learn and implement healthier choices, and learn what a ‘real’ portion size is. Many restaurants will serve 2 -3 times the amount of food you really should be eating.
As to dining out, there are so many things you can do to make better choices. Here are a few general rules or things you can begin doing immediately.
- Put a monetary value on your health. A lot of people overeat at restaurants because they have paid for it. You are worth a lot more than the meal ~ remember that.
- Try to preplan your meal before you even get to the restaurant. If you can check out the menu online, do it. If not, depending on the type of restaurant it is, just have an idea in your mind what you would like ~ obviously with the healthier choice in mind. Make your plan and stick to it.
- If you are having a late dinner, preplan a light snack earlier in the evening to help control your appetite. In addition, don’t starve yourself all day long – this will set you up for overeating.
- If you are at a buffet – look over all the food before making your selection, and plan it in your mind. Again ~ put a money value on you and your health!
- If a food has a fancy name don’t be afraid to ask what it may contain and/or how it is prepared. For example, does it contain butter, cream, gravy? Is it fried?
- You’ll also want to ask if they add butter, margarine, oil or salt to their vegetables, rice or potatoes. How many ounces is the main entree? Sometimes they will offer you a choice of a small or large serving.
- Ask for salad dressing and sauces on the side so you can control how much you use.
- Order an appetizer portion of your choice, or eat half of the regular serving, and take the other half home for lunch the next day.
- Try to reduce the number of food courses you order. Don’t feel that you have to order a drink, appetizer or dessert just because others are doing so.
- When ordering, try to stick with the words baked, broiled, boiled, roasted, grilled.
- If you are really hungry, ask that your salad be brought while everyone is munching on bread or appetizers.
- My opinion on bread is this ~ if it’s not good enough to eat without butter, I just don’t eat it. The exception for me is when at a restaurant that has fabulous ‘crunchy’ bread and serves wonderful olive oil for dipping.
- If you do order wine or a drink, try to ‘nurse it,’ make it last.
- If you make the decision to order dessert, share it.
- Avoid restaurants which serve high calorie, fad laden foods, and avoid ‘all you can eat’ places when possible. Frequent those that offer a variety of foods and will honor your special requests.
- Try to avoid fried foods, with gravy, au gratin, fricassee, cream sauces, casserole, and any other foods with names you don’t recognize.
Control the environment and don’t let it control you! Focus on all the other dimensions of dining out.
- The atmosphere.
- The fact that you are being ‘served.’
- It’s a change of pace.
- Eating is a social activity ~ enjoy the social aspect of it and focus on the conversation and enjoyment of being out with others.
- Take your time and dine ~ slow down. I’ve read that Americans only spend about 75 minutes a day on meals. In other countries they set aside 2 1/2 hours for eating. One of the things I truly enjoyed about our recent trip to Italy was dining every single evening from 7:30 to about 10:00. I think all of the other women would also agree with this. So, with that said ~ try it, you just might like it.
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