Food symbolizes much more than simply a way to nourish our bodies; it has become a huge part of our social lives as well.
Lunch and dinner dates are very common ways to get together and catch up with family and friends. We don’t have to ruin our social lives just because we live a healthy lifestyle. These two things are not mutually exclusive. Don’t get in the mindset that one meal out will ruin your progress. Sustainability is all about balance.
Next time you dine out, follow these guidelines to aid in making healthier decisions.
Give your input when choosing a restaurant. There are obviously places that have healthier options than others. Speak up! Unless your lunch date has their heart set on a certain restaurant, I’m sure they will appreciate your suggestion.
Look at the menu online ahead of time. Do your research. This will help you not only choose a restaurant, but to know what you’re going to order beforehand. That way when you get to the restaurant, you’re less likely to cave.
Make sure you’re not starving upon arrival. It’s never a good idea to let yourself get to the point of severe hunger; it leads to making unhealthy decisions. On that note, sometimes people will cut their caloric intake during the day in preparation for the restaurant meal. There are both good and bad arguments for doing so, but if you do choose this route, make sure you don’t starve yourself during the day. It may lead to binge eating while dining out.
Ask for a light menu. Most restaurants have these. Sometimes there is a section in the main menu and other times there is a separate menu all together. Many restaurants recognize that the population is becoming increasingly health-conscious, so many of them have these healthier options or include calories right in the menu. Don’t be embarrassed or afraid to speak up. There are tons of people with unique food allergies and specific diet restrictions that they need to obey, so it’s likely your server is familiar with these requests.
Don’t assume salad is the healthiest option. This is a common misconception. The truth is, restaurants like to douse salads in dressing, which makes them extremely unhealthy. Which brings brings me to the next tip..
Ask for the sauces on the side. Order your salad dressing on the side. Ask if you can get a lighter, fat-free dressing as a substitute. Sauces are generally full of sugar—yes, they make things taste amazing, but they greatly diminish the overall healthiness of dishes. By asking for the sauce on the side, you can control just how much of it you’re consuming.
Opt for veggies as your side. Obviously a side salad doesn’t go hand-in-hand with a burger like french fries, but sometimes we need to make sacrifices for our health. This is not to say you should never eat french fries; of course it’s important to treat yourself every now and then, but if you’re trying to stay on track, go for the greens.
Don’t drink your calories. Sugary drinks such as soda, juices, and alcoholic beverages are packed full of empty calories. The simple sugars added in these drinks will be broken down by our bodies very quickly, not creating the satiated feeling that cues us to stop eating. Many mixed drinks contain more than 200 calories per serving, which based on a 2,000 calories diet is 10% of your recommended daily caloric intake—not to mention that your body is not receiving any nutritional value from it. Water is always the best route. I agree that it gets boring after awhile, but try adding lemon to it. Not only will this save you calories, it will also save you money.
Control your portion sizes. Part of what makes dining out so unhealthy is that the portion sizes are generally enough for 2 or more meals. We should still be able to enjoy unhealthy foods in moderation. If you receive your dish and it contains an obnoxious amount of food, split your meal in half. If you finish the first half and are truly still hungry, then continue eating. Otherwise, ask for a box and take it home. Recognize when you’re full and don’t overstuff yourself.
Do not feel bad for treating yourself. It’s a healthy lifestyle, not a diet. Moderation is key.