Sometimes it can be really tricky to have a social life while losing weight and staying on track with healthy eating. Whenever I get together with friends or family, we end up going out to eat. So many of my social interactions revolve around food. While trying different restaurants and getting dressed up to go out to dinner with friends is always exciting, it can end up being really stressful when you are trying to stay on track with your diet. Since most of our social gatherings are restaurant related in our day and time, you can’t really avoid it all together.
I used to have a really hard time going to restaurants with friends because I had no idea where to begin. Should I not eat all day and then get a “normal” meal with my friends? Should I only order a side salad without any dressing? Should I eat my own meal at home and only order an iced tea at the restaurant? Going out to eat quickly went from one of my favorite events to a stressful and anxiety filled situation. I started to dread going to restaurants with friends and started avoiding birthday dinners, celebrations, and get-togethers because I just couldn’t handle it.
I realized that I was less happy not hanging out with my friends and celebrating their birthdays than going out to dinner and being stressed. I decided that it was time to figure out a realistic approach to reduce stress and anxiety when dining out. I started by checking online menus and nutrition facts online before going to the restaurant. This way I knew exactly what I would be eating and know how to ask the waiter to prepare it. I also started to become more familiar with what portion sizes looked like so that I could easily eyeball how much of my dish to eat. After I started using this approach, dining out with friends finally became fun again and I no longer had to worry about getting off track. Here are some of my tips and tricks to dining out and staying on track!
- Check restaurant menus online and plan what you will order ahead of time.
- Take your time and look up nutrition facts beforehand.
- Don’t skip meals to “save calories” before dining out. If you starve yourself all day you will end up consuming way more than you planned because you are so hungry. Trust me on this one!
- Say no to bread baskets and chips. If you know you will be too tempted, ask the waiter ahead of time to not bring it. If others dining at your table would like bread and you have no choice but to have it at the table, ask for a side salad with balsamic right away so you have something to nosh on.
- Remember that you have been through harder things than this.
- Remember that you are in charge of what you eat.
- Don’t feel bad or embarrassed to make special requests, like asking for sauces on the side, steamed, no oil, etc. People have elaborate orders all day everyday.
- Look for foods that are grilled, baked, steamed, roasted, or broiled.
- Avoid foods that are fried, crunchy, crispy, creamy, breaded, or sautéed.
- Split an entrée with a friend or order from the appetizer or kids menu.
- Skip dessert or stick to a 3 bite rule. The first bite you are fully present and excited to taste it, second bite you get to take it in and enjoy it, and third bite you get to savor. After that, it’s alllll the same.
- Pay close attention to condiments and dressings. Some of them have a lot of fat, sugar, and calories.
- Get a half order instead of full order when available.
- Ask for a salad, steamed veggies, or fresh fruit on the side instead of fries.
- Always opt for water or unsweetened tea instead of soda.
- Keep portion sizes in mind:
1 cup= baseball
½ cup = yoyo
2/3 cup= tennis ball
¼ cup= egg
3oz= deck of cards
1 Tbs = poker chip
1 tsp = quarter
- Pace yourself. Your meal is not going to sprout legs and run away. Eat slowly, and put your utensil down between bites.
- Take sips of your beverage in between bites.
- Ask for a “to go” container up front and automatically put half of it away before you start to eat.
- Don’t associate fullness with being overly stuffed or bloated. Eat only what your body needs. Give your stomach at least 15 minutes to tell your brain it’s full.
- Remember to enjoy the experience and eat what you want. Dining out should be a treat and shouldn’t be stressful.
- One meal won’t make you fat, skinny, healthy, or unhealthy!