Nowadays, meeting up with friends and family seems to always be centered around food. Most of our social gatherings are at restaurants as it's fun, and also convenient to avoid the hassle of cooking and cleaning. But most of us know that restaurants specialize in making food look and taste delicious, not in making the food healthy. Plus, there are more temptations than at home, and it's more difficult to exercise self-restraint in a social setting. So naturally, a lot of people freak out about eating out when they're trying to be healthier and lose weight.
The good news is- it's totally possible to eat out and avoid packing on the pounds. You just have to be prepared and follow these 5 simple tips:
1. Research beforehand
Look for the healthiest options. Look for grilled fish or poultry entree options, salads, and vegetable sides. If you don't see healthy vegetable dishes nor sides, don't be afraid to kindly ask your waiter to check with the chef regarding what vegetable side they can prepare. Most restaurants have no problems preparing a side of grilled vegetables or sautéed spinach even if it's not on their menu.
2. Indulge in one thing only
Be it wine, bread or dessert. But choose one. So if you're like me and really enjoy having a glass or two of wine with a nice dinner, then you have to be strong and say no to the bread basket and no to dessert. The idea is to not get filled up on empty calories, so you can enjoy you nutrient-filled dish with more pleasure and less guilt.
3. Avoid having multiple appetizers
I suggest getting a salad as an appetizer, that way you're filling up first thing with healthy veggies, and ensuring that you're getting your serving of greens. Aim for simple salads with mixed greens, kale, arugula, fennel, etc, and avoid too many toppings, especially cheese. If all options have cheese, just request the salad of your choice without cheese. And skip the croutons. That's what I do! Lastly, ask for simple olive oil and lemon dressing, and/or ask for the dressing on the side.
4. Be smart about hidden calories
Many dishes are prepared with lots of oil (usually not the good type) and bathed in sauces which can be packed with calories. Choose oven-roasted, grilled, steamed or poached. With sauces, avoid creamy sauces which imply heavy creams or mayo, and often flour and cheese. Instead look for olive oil based sauces with herbs, tomatoes, onion, garlic, etc. And regardless, request the sauce on the side.
5. Apply basic Food Combining principles for optimal digestion
Stick to one protein, with as many vegetables as you'd like. Or if you're craving a pasta or rice dish, choose a vegetarian option, and ask if they have whole wheat pasta/brown rice. The idea is to avoid mixing animal protein with carbs, and avoid mixing different types of protein, as it makes digestion much harder (so for ex, avoid surf and turf - do either fish or meat). The good thing is vegetables go with everything, and you can go crazy on low-carb veggies - eat as much as you'd like guilt-free!
6. When dessert time comes, ask for the tea of your choice
The warm water is soothing, helps with digestion, and it keeps your hands busy so that you avoid grabbing a spoonful of chocolate cake or ice cream. Your body will thank you for it!
Lastly and most importantly - ENJOY your food! APPRECIATE the setting, the wonderful company, put your phone away, and admire the presentation and aroma of your plate when it arrives. Remember to EAT MINDFULLY, chewing each bite and truly tasting all the different flavors of your food. This will make your dining experience so much better.
So relax, go out with your friends or loved one to a restaurant once in a while, and don't over-stress about the calories. Just remember that making simple healthy choices like these will allow you to enjoy your meal without feeling guilty after. With just a little planning and consciousness, we can be healthy and still have fun at delicious, trendy restaurants!