Several years ago when I decided I wanted to live a healthier lifestyle, I thought of all the things I would change. Things like never eating sugar, actually anything white got the axe, except for egg whites and cauliflower. I subscribed to Clean Eating magazine and vowed that I would cook all my meals and never step foot in my company cafeteria again. For the most part, I decided eating out basically had no place in my new lifestyle.
Eventually I stopped going out to eat altogether or, when I did, I smuggled in my own food. Yep, I brought my Rubbermaid to restaurants. I even started turning my nose up at going to dinner at friends' homes. After all, they didn't eat like I did, or heaven forbid, steam their vegetables.
Looking back, you might say I was a bit neurotic and I would wholeheartedly agree. The truth is, I was trying to control every aspect of my diet, but it was a joy-sucking chore and the worst part was that it was unnecessary. I tried to control every element of my diet and it was depressing.
Oh, I felt accomplished, but now I realize that I really was deprived. I missed out on sharing good times and meals with friends and family and even potential professional opportunities as I especially steered clear of work outings. I must admit, I'm still not too fond of the office cafeteria, but when the odds of you getting food poisoning aren't in your favor, you would be too.
When you decide that you're going to adopt a healthier lifestyle, you may think you need to forgo eating out, because staying at home gives you more control over what you eat.
But dining out is about so much more than just the food. Don't miss out on socializing with friends, panicking over what to eat when you're traveling or just enjoying a night off from cooking.
Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.
― Ruth Reichl
Stress free eating out is enjoyable, and with a few tips, it becomes no big deal.
When dining at a new restaurant, go online to check out the menu. This will help set you up for success. Knowing what you're going to eat when you walk in the door or having narrowed down the selection to a few choices ensures that you have thought through your meal and it will be more balanced than, say if you just ate on a whim. Figure out where your protein, fat and carbs will come from. If there's a dessert that you really want to try, you'll know not to dive into the bread basket or load up on a side of mash.
Mind Your Portions and Macros
If you are an avid calorie counter and tend to weigh your food regularly, you probably have a good sense of what your portion sizes are. This can get a bit trickier as you move away from calorie counting, but it's nothing to worry about. Take notice of the portion size of food you eat when at home and simply eat to the same scale when eating out and take the rest home for lunch the next day.
For the intuitive eater, you probably already have a system in place for managing your portion sizes and macros. As a general rule I eat about 1-1/2 palm size of protein, ½ palm of fat, a fist of starchy carbs and as many veggies as I want. This can be adjusted depending on current goals, but in general, this is what I do. Over time this just becomes a habit and pretty much effortless whether eating at home or away. It's also portable!
Another great tip whether eating at home or out on the town is to eat your food slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to send out satiety signals. Slowing down your eating will allow you to stop eating before getting over full. Plus, if you're enjoying a splurge, why not savor each and every bite?
Watch Out for Sneaky Calories
What sounds like a pretty healthy meal can actually turn out to be a calorie bomb. Stay on the lookout for dishes that have sauces or are creamed, crispy, breaded…you get the idea. Not that you have to steer clear all the time, but know what you are eating. Of course beverages like soda, juices, lemonades, etc., unless they have a sugar substitute, are usually packed with calories as well and probably should be avoided in general. Opt for sparkling water or unsweetened tea instead.
Eating Out Mindfully and Stress-free
To sum things up, if you eat out regularly or travel a lot, aim to eat a bit closer to what you would normally eat at home most of the time. Over indulging on the regular won't help you reach your goals and will probably just lead to a lot of frustration.
If you eat out a bit less frequently and want to splurge, go for it. If you happen to be going to the restaurant that makes the best vodka sauce in town, enjoy! I am a sucker for chicken tikka masala and make a point to get to my favorite Indian restaurant every now and again. It is definitely a splurge as not only do I eat the tikka masala, but I sop up the sauce with naan as well!
A splurge once in a while will have minimal impact on your progress when looking at the bigger picture, but may do wonders for your soul! Don't miss out on the simple yet fulfilling things by limiting your diet to only what is prepared by you. Get out and enjoy life!