10 Ways to Eat Out & Stay on Track and Enjoy!

So it’s the beginning of a new year or you’ve decided you’re fed up with the extra pounds that are making you feel uncomfortable in your own skin or are limiting your every day life and what you want to accomplish. You’ve made efforts into making changes to what you’re eating, starting to find some physical activity that you truly enjoy doing and are starting to feel great. I applaud you for taking those steps!!

Now, however, your girlfriend who you haven’t seen in months, calls you up and asks if you can meet her at your favorite brunch place or the boss wants you to attend a business dinner, which will include alcohol on the house. Another common, in fact weekly situation, is with the family. Your spouse really wants to get out and take you to dinner at your favorite restaurant or you take the kids to a pizza place for some fun as a family.

Your first thoughts might be; I’d love to see my friend and catch up for sure but if I go to that restaurant, I’ll be so tempted to get my usual meal which I know is not in line with what I’m trying to accomplish right now. Or, for the work situation, I know I must go as part of my position at work and normally I enjoy these evenings, but I’m stressed that I’ll cave and drink too many cocktails and dive into the appetizers! When we take the kids to that pizza place I usually get into the spirit of the fun and eat way too much pizza and sometimes beer with my husband. Now what do I do??

I face and have faced these situations too, I hear ya! The key is to plan ahead and in ways you may not have thought of. Here are 10 ways that you can help you handle the situations and also enjoy.

  1. Suggest another way to spend time with your friends and family. You may tell your friend that you’re committed to changing your eating habits in order to live more healthfully and with that, perhaps we can change things up and get coffee or tea and go for a walk to catch up. Same with the family, think of another way to bond that includes some physical activity and that revolves less around food but that all will still enjoy. Lazer tag, hiking at your local metro park and pack a picnic, story time at your local library, or other free or less expensive events your city is putting on.
  2. If going to the restaurant is the only option, plan ahead on what you’ll eat. Do this by searching for their menu ahead of time and opt for something on the “Lite Menu” which has 500 or less calories on it that you know you’ll also enjoy. These sections of the menu make the choices more straight forward with less guessing if its a healthier choice.
  3. Be the first to order!! How many times have you gone mentally prepared as in point #2 then change your mind last minute after discussing the menu “Joe, what are you having?” Joe says “I’m getting the lasagna, what are you ordering?” Your mind starts to drift about how yummy that sounds and you change your mind last minute. Regrets after. So, YOU be the one to start the ordering, knowing you made a healthy choice that you’re going to enjoy your selection and then socialize with those at the table, enjoying their company.
  4. Alcohol…as adults we use it to socialize and at after work events as I mentioned before with the boss at a dinner meeting. Am I right? I get it. You’ve had a long, stressful day at work and just want to wind down and relax with a cocktail or glass of wine. Some ways you can handle this is to forgo the alcohol altogether and get a flavored, unsweetened sparkling water with a lime. Its refreshing, tasty and looks like a drink when in a glass with ice. Or, simply limit yourself to one alcoholic drink only. Sip it an enjoy it. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram in comparison to fat which has 9 calories per gram. So it is not calorie free my friend and has more calories per gram than protein or carbs and that’s before adding the sugary syrups! Alcohol also lets your guard down and creates cravings for unhealthy foods. Have a plan on how you’re going to handle that and stick with it. Better yet, tell a friend to keep you accountable.
  5. Explore new foods! Many restaurants today are using fresh, locally grown produce to create new dishes that are centered around healthy living and are also environmentally sustainable, furthering your enjoyment of your meal. You may discover you like new foods and new ways to prepare them at home!
  6. Look for items that are lower in sugar and refined carbs and higher in protein, healthy fats and fiber. A great example would be a veggie omelet with the cheese on the side or ask for lite cheese with a side of one piece of whole grain or gluten free toast and sub out the potatoes for fruit or side of greens. If the omelet is large, eat half and take the other half home for tomorrow’s breakfast at the office!
  7. Take small bites, eat slowly and focus on the company you’re with. It’s not a race to see who can finish their food first nor is it a time to get into the “clean-plater’s club”. You could spin that around and try to be the last one to be eating. Once you start to feel full, ask for a take home box and put the rest of your meal in the box or ask for a box right away and put half of the meal in the box so it’s out of sight, out of mind. It takes your brain about 20 minutes to register that your stomach is full…give it a chance to register!
  8. Don’t go out to eat when famished. You’ll be tempted to get that fattening appetizer or overeat your meal and too quickly. Have a bottle of water before you eat or a small apple to curb your hunger so you’re in control when ordering and also at mealtime.
  9. Save money and calories by sharing meals with friends! You can plan ahead or plan ahead of time that you’ll split a meal. If you both can agree on a meal, go for it! It’s a social act and can be fun to share a meal and comment on its quality and taste.
  10. Take inventory of who you hang around on a normal basis. Surround yourself with those who are trying to accomplish similar goals or those that truly want the best for you and will support your new habits, not criticize or pick on you for wanting to eat and live a healthier lifestyle because they aren’t in that place. Consider not going out to eat with friends who will not support you. You do You!

Let me know in the comments if these were helpful and which ideas you’ll begin to implement! This is your year to accomplish your health goals and it will be so worth it. Think of where you’ll be in just 3 to 6 months! With an open mind, eating out healthfully does not have to feel like deprivation but is a chance to explore new foods and feed your body well while enjoying your friends and family’s company.

Lori is a Nutrition & Dietetic Technician Registered and Certified Health Coach who specializes in helping men and women reach their health goals by helping them incorporate small but manageable steps towards habit change, including incorporating healthy foods into their diet along with discovering physical activity they enjoy. This leads to a lifestyle that they truly love to live, not a temporary diet that often leads to frustration, deprivation and ultimately quitting.

Contact Lori at Seedsofchangenutrition@gmail.com today for questions or more support!