Whether it’s a celebratory dinner at a fancy restaurant or a quick bite from a fast food outlet, eating away from home can be fraught with difficult decisions when you’re trying to lose weight. However, a mindful approach can help you navigate potential pitfalls when dining out. When you plan ahead and set your intention to have a nourishing meal that fuels your body, you will commit to good food choices.
Do your research
The first step is to plan ahead. Do a little pre-meal research about where you might be going out to eat. Many restaurants post their menus online. A quick review of the offerings will give you an opportunity to identify a few of the restaurant’s healthier options. You can apply a similar strategy when grabbing fast food for lunch. Large restaurant chains are required to publish nutrition information for their menu items. Therefore, you can find out the calorie count and nutritional make up of their standard meals and choose accordingly.
Avoid calorie bombs
You don’t have to be a super sleuth to decipher the restaurant code for high-calorie menu items. When you see the words: creamy, crispy, cheesy, buttery, breaded, battered, fried or au gratin in a menu item description; you will know the dish contains a lot of calories and most likely, extra fat. Instead, keep your eyes peeled for meals that are grilled, sautéed, roasted, steamed, baked, or poached. Opt for water, seltzer, or spritzers instead of sugary cocktails, sodas or sweetened beverages. At the end of the meal, consider fresh fruit or a fruit-based dessert over traditional cake, cookies, or ice cream.
Your healthy intentions may be tested when the server sets a breadbasket on the table. It is perfectly acceptable to ask for it be taken away, rather than inviting the carbohydrate temptation before your meal arrives. When it’s time to place your order, ask to order first. This way, you won’t risk being swayed if your companions’ choices trend toward the more fattening items. Remember to ask for sauces or dressings to be served on the side. To ensure the greatest amount of taste with the least amount of dressing, try dipping your fork into the side cup before you spear your salad greens. This way you’ll be sure to get flavor in every bite.
Other mindful eating options when dining out include ordering small plates or a la carte items instead of a full entrée, sharing an appetizer or dessert with someone else, or asking that half of your meal be boxed up to take home.
Have it your way
Don’t let the fear of being labeled a “difficult diner” deter you from asking questions about the ingredients and preparation methods of the menu items. Restaurants are in the business of catering to a variety of dietary needs and preferences. For example, ask if you can substitute a salad or fruit in place of a starch for your side dish. Or, see if the chef will grill your salmon steak without adding butter. If you’re just grabbing a sandwich, ask that it is prepared without the mayo or special sauce. Having a burger? You can request the patty be served between lettuce leaves instead of a bun.
So, let’s recap
Whether by choice or necessity, more and more people are eating away from home. When you’re trying to lose weight, making healthy food choices in a restaurant setting can seem daunting. However, you can sidestep the worst calorie traps and still have an enjoyable experience by planning ahead, and setting a mindful intention before you start your meal. This awareness will guarantee a satisfying and sensible dining experience.