Summertime, holidays, being out on the go, and vacation is some of the most tempting times to eat food that will destroy your diet goal. Restaurants have temptation around every corner. After a long week at the office, you probably think you earned that 1000 calorie cocktail before dinner and another 1000 calories after dinner with dessert. You might get an appetizer too because you starved yourself. You wanted to make sure you could enjoy every bite of this meal. After all that sodium how about 4 refills of coke?
Sabotaging your diet is a choice. Rewarding yourself with food that makes you feel even more regret about your week is not the answer.
The key to success in any diet is being prepared. If you’re going out to eat based off of stress and starving yourself, you’re not going to the restaurant with your diet goal in mind.
Diagnosed with celiac disease 5 years ago I wasn’t sure how to live anymore. I felt like the social enjoyment of food had been taken away from me. Eating out on a diet is easier than ever now with the help of the internet and apps.
I know you just can’t wait to be king of your diet while out eating. Here are some tips to conquer your plate.
Don’t go to the restaurant starving it can cloud your judgment.
Here’s how to go in with a clear mind.
- Eat a small meal one hour to an hour and a half before you go out. Have a handful of almonds with a glass of water, or a hard boiled egg, or glass of water with 1-2 tablespoons of chia seeds.
- Make sure you are drinking water all day. Thirst is sometimes mistaken for hunger.
- Call Ahead: The worst decisions are made on a starving stomach. Call ahead for a table. Ask if it is possible to be seated away from the kitchen. This prevents you from having to see all the food coming out of the kitchen. Studies show the sight and smell of food while you wait to eat can throw off your metabolism (Brunstrom).
- Take a bathroom break. Practice deep breathing in the bathroom. An anxious mind is more likely to order high-fat comfort food (Underwood). Taking a moment to decompress can save your diet.
- Plan ahead: Don’t go to a buffet! Know what is available for you to eat at the restaurant. There are apps that allow you to find restaurants with menus tailored to your diet like AroundME app. Use Yelp! Search the diet you are looking for and the desired restaurant location. Ex: Low Calorie, low carb, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, paleo, farm to table, grass-fed, keto, etc. You can also use Google and Trip Advisor as well (Migala).
- Look at the menu online. See if there’s a low-calorie menu. If there’s not enough information online call.
- Create a budget to prevent yourself from overeating. You can get an idea of your budget by calling and looking at the menu online of how much your meal will be.
How to Order Your Meal
- Let your server know of your diet restrictions. I’m gluten allergy. If someone wants the toast that comes with my meal it can’t touch the plate. I have to make sure it is plated separately. Be as specific as possible. It’s better to assume your server is uneducated with your diet. Remember they want to make a good tip off your table. If they can do anything to make that happen they will.
- Say no to the breadbasket and chips and salsa. You can ask ahead if the restaurant has these put out before the meal and let your server know to bring you a salad at the same time.
- Decode the Menu! Be cautious of these words on the menu: Juicy, luscious, loaded, sizzling, creamy, crunchy, and rich. These are clue words found in diet ruining foods. Look for healthy words like grilled, broiled, or baked. Ask for any butter or sauce to be left off (Morris).
- Order First. This gives you the opportunity to be a trendsetter. If you let other people order before you, it will tempt you to order something else. Call the waiter over if you have to. Be assertive.
- Skip the first drink. Start with a club soda with a lime, orange, fresh mint, or lemon slice first. You can even ask to have it in a wine glass. If you do choose to have an alcoholic beverage drink red wine. Or just cut out all alcoholic beverages to cut your calories all together. An alcoholic beverage can equate to 100s to 1000s of calories (Healthy Eating Tips: how to Eat Healthy When Dining Out on a Diet).
- Start with a salad or broth based soup. No creamy soup! Order your salad dry with no croutons and no cheese. All dressings should be on the side. A study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that volunteers who ate a salad before their main course ate fewer calories than those who didn’t (Morris).
- Split it! Split a protein entrée with a friend. If it comes with one side add a second side. When I make a healthy food choice I think to myself is paying the $3 really too much? Your healthy choices are one less hospital or doctor bill.
- Ordering a burger? Skip the bun and replace it with lettuce or romaine leaves. Swap out your fries for a side of steamed veggies.
- Know your cuts of meat. You want skinless chicken. Not chicken thighs or legs. If you want a steak order top sirloin, tip side steak, or bottom round. Stay away for prime rib (Morris).
- Order an appetizer with a vegetable side of veggies, a cup of broth based soup or a side salad. Ask your server to have the kitchen hold the butter. No croutons and no cheese.
- Salad Vs. Veggies. If you cannot find a salad option without cheese or dressing opt for steamed vegetables. Hold the butter.
- Steamed Veggies– Be careful! Restaurants like to pour butter and seasonings on steamed veggies.
- Sides. If you have a choice of 2 you can usually opt for a side salad to eat before your meal and a side of steamed veggies with your meal.
- Dissect the menu. Create a list of healthy items from different dishes. You can create your own meal from what ingredients you can see on the menu. See avocado for salad? Why no a bun free burger with avocado?
- Communicate with your server. Ask for butter and sauce on the side. Or ask to not cook with butter and only use seasoning. This rule applies to eating protein or vegetables.
While you eat
- When the food is delivered to your table ask for a to-go box. Portion your food. Put away 50-75% of your food. An 8oz steak is equivalent to the amount of red meat you are supposed to eat in week. Take half of it to lunch tomorrow.
- If you’re eating alone download a book to read or bring a book with you to keep you from overeating.
- Take digestive enzymes. Read the instructions they will instruct you to take your digestive enzymes during or after your meal.
- Pay attention to the music. Rock, pop and heavy metal music cause people to eat faster. Concentrate on your chewing.
- Dip your fork before you load it with salad. This gives you a taste for your craving and portion control.
- Eat the lowest calorie first. Eating the low-calorie vegetable side first will help you fill up on fewer calories.
- Put down your fork between bites. This will give you time to gauge your hunger level before taking another bite (Morris).
What to bring to the restaurant?
- Buy a pill container and fill it with your favorite spices or dressing that follows your diet. You can pack Celtic sea salt and Cajun spice. These two spices help with digestion. You can even pack your own olive oil. Restaurant dressings are majority made with vegetable oil. The salt and pepper on the table are processed (Rothkranz).
When you’re done eating your meal…
- Eat This, Not That! advises, when eating on a diet you should douse your meal in salt when you are done or cover it in a napkin so you stop eating (Morris).
- Order fruit.
- Have a cup of coffee or tea.
- If there is no fruit skip the extra calories from the cake, and ice cream.
A great Youtube channel to follow for more tips on eating out is Mind Over Munch. I learned from the channel how a shrimp tempura roll is just as bad as eating a Big Mac!
Here’s a link to Mind Over Munch’s guide on healthy sushi choices while dining out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sApM1iUN2WE
Don’t forget you are in control of what you order and what goes on your plate!
Brunstrom, J.M. “Mind over Platter: Pre-meal Planning and the Control of Meal Size in
Humans.” International Journal of Obesity (2005). Nature Publishing Group, July 2014.
Web. 24 July 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25033963
Healthy Eating Tips: How to Eat Healthy When Dining Out on a Diet. Perf. Kerri Glassman
Youtube. Nutritious Life, 9 December 2015. Web. 22 July 2017.
Migala, Jessica.”11 Rules for Eating Healthy on the Road.” Men’s Health. Men’s Health,
22 Aug. 2-14. Web. 24 July 2017.
Morris, Meagan. “35 Tips to Eat Healthy at Restaurants.” Eat This Not That. 06 Feb. 2016. Web.
24 July 2017. http://www.eatthis.com/how-to-eat-healthy-at-restaurants
Noelle. “How to Eat Healthy While Traveling.” Coconuts and Kettlebells. Coconuts and
Kettlebells, 17 Feb. 2017. Web. 24 July 2017.
Rothkranz, Markus. “How to Eat Healthy When Eating Out, Markus Rothkranz, Cara Brotman.”
Youtube. Youtube, 21 May 2014. Web. 24 July 2017.
Underwood, Brain. “Dine Out on a Diet: Your Restaurant Survival Guide.” Fitness Magazine.
Meredith’s Women’s Network, 03 June 2015. Web. 24 July 2017.
Feature image via The Cheat Sheet