8 Tips for Eating Out Without Blowing Your New Year’s Resolutions
Is it possible to go out to dinner and still stick with your healthy eating goals? Why yes, yes indeed it is.
|This post is brought to you by The Cheesecake Factory|
Is there any more sure-fire way of blowing your healthy new year’s resolutions than by going out to dinner? The apps! The cocktails! The dessert list! Well, actually … there is. Going out to dinner without planning ahead and keeping in mind a few simple tips — that’s the sure-fire way to get off your healthy track. But there’s no reason why you can’t go out to eat, make smart choices and have your cake too. (Isn’t that how the saying goes?)
1. Sharing is caring! An easy way to cut back on fat and calories — split your favorite dishes with your dinner mates! You can split apps and order your own entrees, or go ahead and split the whole meal, making sure to include a few healthier choices in the mix.
2. Remember the “food plate.” Wait — you haven’t heard about the new food plate? Dudes! The food pyramid totally got a face-lift. It’s not even a triangle any more. We know. It’s a PLATE. It’s pretty cool, actually. Basically, if you visualize your ideal daily food intake as a plate, half of it should be veggies and fruit, a quarter of it lean protein, and the final quarter grain and carbs. Dairy is represented by a cup on the side (the RDA is three cups a day). And of course, this is a helpful thing to visualize as you order your meal — make sure a good portion of it is veggies and you’re in great shape.
3. Keep your mind in the game. A recent study, published in the current edition of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, shows that when you simply practice mindful eating techniques (basically: staying aware of what you’re eating and how you feel), it’s possible to lose weight while still eating out as often as you usually do. So — enjoy your meal, concentrate on the flavors and the yummy aromas, and don’t just gobble up your meals while your mind’s on the conversation or the hot waiter. Keep checking in with yourself: Am I still hungry? The hardest part? Put down that fork when you feel full. You may be tempted to clear your plate because it’s so good, but just remind yourself that this isn’t the last time you’re ever going to be in a restaurant! This article in Psychology Today expands on the concept of mindful eating.
4. Plan ahead. This is part of mindful eating — making conscious decisions about what you’re going to eat. Before you even leave the house, think about what you’re going to order, and how many “splurges” you’re going to have. Many restaurants even have their menus online so you can peruse ahead of time. If you set an intention before you get there, you’ll be much less likely to overindulge.
5. Don’t skip the meal before. Part of “planning ahead” is NOT “starve yourself silly all day before you go out.” In general, it’s better to eat small meals throughout the day, to keep your blood sugar stable and to keep yourself from getting TOO hungry and eventually scarfing down whatever snack you can find. The same goes for when you’re planning to eat out — eat sensibly during the rest of the day, so you’re hungry enough to enjoy your restaurant meal but not so hungry you hear yourself suggesting you and your date share “one of everything!”
6. Don’t be afraid to pull a “Sally.” Ah, Sally, from the eternal favorite, When Harry Met Sally. And now we’re not talking about THAT scene (ahem) — we’re talking about the one where she orders her meal exactly how she wants it. Don’t be afraid to ask to substitutions — or even to ask your waiter if there’s a way of making your favorite entree with less oil or butter.
7. Don’t drink a meal’s worth of calories along with your meal. Seltzer with a splash of cranberry, unsweetened iced-tea … these are your friends. Unless of course the specialty drinks are why you’re there in the first place — in that case, then use those for your splurges! But remember you can always ask to see the nutritional info so you know exactly how many calories you’re getting into. Also: see “sharing is caring” above.
Finally, speaking of splurges…
8. Enjoy! Allow yourself a treat! Remember, it’s all about moderation. If you try to be too strict with yourself, chances are, you won’t enjoy your meal — and you might be more prone to abandoning any attempt at sticking to your diet the next time you go out.
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