Let’s be real: the old tips of “say no to the bread basket!” and “have the wait staff place half of your meal in a to-go bag before it ever reaches your plate” are tired.
Can they work? Of course. Buuut will you also look like a crazy person if you employ them? Perhaps. Restaurant outings, for many, are an inevitable (and, hello, AWESOME!) part of life–they don’t totally DON’T have to derail your otherwise-clean diet. Here are a few NEW quick skinny tips to help you stay on track when dining out.
- Pick the place. Have a choice? USE IT! While you can always modify your order at any restaurant, why go to a pizza chain, family-style Italian spot, or a locale famed for a giant menu and selection of cheesecakes if you don’t actually HAVE to? Use the opportunity to exercise your right to choose and select a restaurant with healthier options. Think, fresh, organic, farm-to-table ingredients and whole foods–a fancy take on the stuff you’d eat (or would like to eat) at home. If you don’t have a go-to place in mind, go online and check out local reviews and menus. If all else fails: sushi. Always sushi.
- Share the wealth (and the calories). If you can swing it, share it. Splitting a restaurant meal makes for much healthier portion sizes, and sharing an entree is way less weird than having your meal pre-split and bagged to go. Plus, even if you choose something especially high in calories, you’re only getting half a portion. Bump up the nutritional value with an extra side of steamed veggies or salad and you’re good to go. Advanced tip: Order a crazy appetizer to split with the table, nab a tiny taste, and then order a low-calorie entree. After your mozzarella stick sampler, no one will give you side-eye for ordering a salmon salad with dressing on the side, trust.
- DON’T order from the “light” menu. While lunch-sized portions are typically a safe bet, ditch any option that’s billed as “light” or “low-fat”. Not only can these claims be misleading–for example, an item that’s listed as low-fat is often simply high-sugar, while items listed as low-carb can be high in saturated fat and calories–but the benefits of modifying otherwise normal, healthy (though oversized) meals are often minimal. Taking the fat out of dressing on a salad might decrease the calorie count, but it also robs the meal of nutrition. The taste-enhancing chemicals used in fat-free dressing can actually block the absorption of nutrients, while regular, full-fat dressing or olive oil aids in absorption. Opt for the most balanced, simple meal possible (protein, vegetable, and grain) and enjoy–fat and all!
- Do dinner OR drinks, not dinner AND drinks. While drinking alcohol definitely has it’s place in a night of celebrating, if you imbibe, at least ATTEMPT to keep to a two-drink maximum. Even the lowest-calorie drinks, like wine or a vodka soda, contain EMPTY calories, which are obviously no bueno. Calories aside, drinking alcohol is inflammatory, and it seriously lowers your willpower aaand tends to lead to the dreaded drunchies faster than you can say “cheese fries”. If you can avoid alcohol, do it. It’s an easy subtraction that no one will care about and that you probably won’t really miss.
- Realize that you don’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) order a salad. Salads SEEM like a safe choice, but they really aren’t. Why? Because new flash: restaurant salads aren’t automatically healthy! While the salads you make at home can be awesome, healthy options, the same cannot typically be said for their restaurant counterparts complete with nutrition-devoid, standard-issue iceberg lettuce piled high with toppings. Giant restaurant portions, paired with addition of bacon bits, “crispy” chicken, croutons, and oceans of dressing, make for poor nutrition and high calorie counts. Like, REALLY high calorie counts. 1000-calorie-salads high calorie counts. That’s a major splurge or treat. Definitely a deceptive choice.
So that’s it! Pick a good place, make decent choices, share your food, don’t drink your calories…and maybe skip the bread basket. 😉