Going out to eat is fun. Sometimes it’s exciting. Sometimes it’s obligatory. Most of the time, it’s inevitable. Maybe we are on a cleanse or a restrictive diet. We have busy social lives, or we’re dating. Either way, we shouldn’t have to choose between a social life and a healthy lifestyle. It’s really all about choices, rather than compromises.
We don’t have to choose a night out OR eating healthy, we can have both. And registered dietitian and founder of Kitchen Coach, Sarah Mirkin, tells us it doesn’t have to be boring—it can and should be totally delicious. Here are her favorite ways to stay on track while enjoying someone else cooking for you:
This might sound counterintuitive. Wait, you want us to eat more calories? Before going out to eat? The point is not caloric here, though, not entirely. Mirkin explains that we shouldn’t show up to the restaurant famished for several reasons.
“This can lead to poor choices and overindulgence. Try to eat small, frequent meals throughout the day that are high in protein to keep your blood sugars even, and help keep you satisfied. To take the edge off, have a small snack with protein and veggies before you walk out the door. Try something like string cheese and grape tomatoes, turkey in lettuce leaves, or veggies and hummus.”
This will prevent you from diving headfirst into a bread basket or plate of truffle fries due to necessity. We all know friends will order it for the table, and if you’re absolutely running on empty, who can resist? A little healthy snack beforehand will also prevent drinking cocktails or wine on an empty stomach, which can cause binge eating later, as well.
Opt for a lighter or healthier appetizer
Even if you have a snack before, or if you do show up famished, quickly order something healthy from the small bites section.
“If you skip tip #1 and show up hungry, order a healthy appetizer such as a shrimp or crab cocktail, chicken breast skewers, ceviche, steamed artichoke, or a broth-based soup when your server is taking your beverage order. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to know there is food in your stomach. This will help prevent overeating and making unhealthy menu choices,” Mirkin explains.
“Look at the menu online before you go! Decide what the healthiest choice is for you. Then, try to order before anyone you’re dining with so that you’re less tempted by unhealthy choices.”
Order an alcoholic drink WITH dinner, or skip it
“Consuming alcohol on an empty stomach causes blood sugar to drop, which can make you feel famished, make poor choices, and overindulge. Caloric drinks, whether they contain alcohol or not, pack empty calories. Studies also suggest that people eat more when they are drinking a beverage besides water.”
Don’t be afraid to ask for subs
For many, this is practically a phobia. We don’t want to come off as rude or demanding. So don’t! Ask politely if simple subs are possible. After all, you’re paying for it.
“Speak up! Make special requests such as asking for extra vegetables to replace a fried accompaniment or processed carbohydrate, avocado to replace mayonnaise, and heavy sauces and dressing on the side,” Mirkin suggests.
“Pay attention to portion size. Restaurant dishes are typically at least twice as large as the appropriate serving size. When you’re with people dining and lost in conversation, you may not be aware of how much you’ve eaten until you’re overly stuffed. When your dish arrives, cut away the portion you don’t want to consume and put it to the side of your plate, or ask your waiter to place it in a to-go box.”
Act like ladies and gents
“Eat like you’re fine dining, even when you aren’t. Eat slowly and pay attention to the aroma, mouthfeel, textures, and flavor of the food. Put your fork down and take sips of water between bites, take small bites, savor the food, and enjoy.”
It’s so easy to want to slam your whole incredible plate. But take your time. It’s not going anywhere, and you don’t have to rush. It’s an excuse to savor the social time, as well, and it’s amazing for digestion to eat slowly and more intentionally.
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