If you’re a social butterfly and find yourself with lunch plans and on dinner outings quite often, you could be doing some damage to your waistline. While eating out can leave your wallet feeling light, it doesn’t have to make you feel heavier. Below are some of my tips for enjoying social outings without the guilt.
tips for eating out
on a calorie budget
Salad isn’t always the best
I used to think choosing a salad was the easiest and smartest way to ensure what I was eating was low in calories, high in protein and low in carbohydrates, but I was wrong. Many salads contain ingredients that are not the healthiest, like croutons, or additions that are high in sugar, like some salad dressings, candied pecans, dried cranberries or raisins (which are naturally high in sugar). If you’re going to order a salad, try to avoid ingredients that are high in sugar, and ask your server for some substitutions. For example, instead of the dried cranberries, ask for blueberries, which are low in sugar and will still give your salad some sweetness.
While I used to eat salad at every dinner outing with friends, I eventually got bored of this, and my friends’ pastas and burgers looked way more appetizing. So don’t be afraid to change it up — wisely.
Study the menu, and ask questions
This doesn’t mean you have to be annoying to your server, but considering all your options and knowing what some items on the menu really contain will make you more aware of what you’re eating and help you determine if it’s a smart choice. Knowing what you can and cannot substitute will also help make your healthy decision easier. For example, if the chicken pesto sandwich looks more appealing to me than the chicken club salad, I’ll ask my server if the restaurant has a whole-grain bread for the sandwich instead of the white bread. If it does, I ask for that to be substituted, and if it doesn’t, then I’ll go for the salad. If I feel the salad’s dressing may have too much sugar or be too high in calories, I sometimes just ask for a mix of olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the side as my dressing.
You can still have tasty food
Eating healthy when trying to lose weight doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice all your favourite foods; just be smart about it. Sometimes when I really want a burger and the restaurant doesn’t have whole-grain bread, I’ll ask for the burger anyway (without the ketchup or sauces that may contain lots of sugar), and I’ll eat the the burger patty and toppings with a fork along with a side salad. If I’m really craving fries, I’ll get sweet potato fries instead of regular fries, since sweet potatoes are lower in starch. If I don’t want to give up that bowl of pasta, I’ll ask the restaurant to substitute the regular pasta with whatever whole-grain pasta it has. If I’m having a dish that comes with rice, I always ask if the restaurant has brown or wild rice to substitute.
Remember to enjoy yourself
If you’re wary or might get embarrassed asking so many questions about the menu in front of your dinner or lunch mates, then look up the menu online, or call the restaurant ahead of time to ask if it has these substitutions, so you can plan accordingly. Most important, don’t let the pleasure of enjoying a good meal out with good company turn into an unenjoyable task in finding something healthy to eat. Most restaurants are aware of customer dietary preferences and restrictions, so you’re bound to find a healthy alternative to choose from. If there’s something on the menu you really want to try even though it might not be the healthiest choice, then promise yourself that, in the next few weeks, you’ll make only healthy choices to continue on your path to a slimmer, healthier you!
Ultimately food, whether enjoyed at home or at a restaurant over good conversation, can still be a pleasure while keeping your weight loss objectives in mind. It’s all about balance!