Who doesn’t love to eat out at a nice restaurant? Here are a few super-practical tips for eating out sensibly– without the guilt and disappointment of emotional eating. Because that’s one date you don’t need to drag along!
Eating out used to be a luxury reserved for a special occasion; but today, Americans frequently eat out. It is important when we eat out, whether it’s a fancy dinner or a quick lunch, that we get our nutritional needs met and do not end up eating foods that are destructive to our bodies.
Understanding How To Order Your Meal
Because restaurants want us to have a great dining experience, they prepare food very different than what we would at home (there’s a reason restaurant food tastes so much richer than when we prepare it.) The problem with this is twofold: first, since we are eating out regularly, our taste buds start to adapt and crave that heavier, richer taste; second, the extra ingredients—butter, oils, sugars, etc.—that give restaurant food that rich flavor are doing a lot of harm to us. So what about eating out without the guilt trip?
We need to be in charge of our food–not only at home but when dining out as well– by asking how foods are prepared and providing input on how we want our meal prepared. Some establishments will do a great job and others won’t.
And remember, if you eat out, it is not a license to pig out! Determine what a normal portion is for you. Research shows that when people dine out with others, they tend to eat more– and, if there is a lot of different food to choose from, they will eat more than they should.
Don’t show up too hungry to a restaurant, eat slowly, and make good food choices. Learn how to determine what the healthier food selections are on the menu and do not be shy about requesting your meal be prepared in a healthier manner.
Ask how the food is prepared and what cuts of lean meat are available. Minimize sauces, dressings, sodium, butters, and oils prepared with or on the food. Learn to enjoy fresh food prepared simply. Balance out your meals with healthy sides: ask for vegetables with your fish; if you are eating bread, pass on the side of rice or pasta; if you are drinking wine, skip the bread and save room for a fresh fruit dessert.
If the portions are large, some people like to have half of their plate of food wrapped up at the beginning of the meal so they are looking at a normal portion size. Just because a restaurant may super-size their food to justify the cost, doesn’t mean it is a normal portion for the average person. If you can get two meals out of a dinner out, think of it as a bonus: you offset the cost and the calories!
Getting the Lay of the Land: Be Prepared No Matter the Restaurant
Chinese food includes a lot of vegetables, rice, noodles and typically offers healthy selections. Because it is cooked in a wok with peanut oil, it won’t clog your arteries because it is unsaturated fat but it can add a tremendous number of calories. To offset some of these calories, drain off the excess oil on your plate, transfer your food to a clean plate, or order your food steamed. Another option, order one dish steamed and one in the oil, mix on a separate plate—you will enjoy some flavor while minimizing the oil.
Indian food is often prepared with ghee, which is butter, salt, and many times coconut oil. These will not serve you well. Ask, ask, ask! Many Indian plates are prepared with sesame oil which is an unsaturated fat and much better for you. Get comfortable asking and finding favorites that are prepared in a healthy manner.
Italian food can also be healthy by ordering a meatless marinara, pomodoro, or white clam sauce with lots of vegetables. Stay away from cream sauces.
Japanese food is always a good choice. Lots of good quality protein, vegetables, and rice.
Mexican food can be healthy but minimize the chips– they can be addicting! You can fill up on chips (typically fried) before your food even shows up. Order tortilla soup and have the chips removed from the table. Another option: ask for corn or wheat tortillas and enjoy with salsa. Stay away from the cheeses and sour cream and stick to good quality protein, beans, rice, lettuce, tomato, etc. Minimize the guacamole and make sure the beans are not made with lard.
American food includes a lot of white, refined breads and rolls that are pre-buttered and contain minimal nutrients. Ask for a side salad or fruit instead of French fries. Watch out for bacon, avocado, cheeses, olives, dressings, and sauces that are high in calories. Look for foods that are grilled, broiled, or blackened.
For breakfast order oatmeal, egg whites, and fresh berries or eggs with vegetables and whole wheat toast. Scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, cheese omelets, donuts, pancakes, and fried French toast are not a good way to start your morning.
Rediscover the Joy of Food!
At The Hungry Heart, we believe that eating can be an AMAZING experience. It’s sad how emotional overeating can strip away that joy and fill us with guilt about eating the foods we love. That’s why we help people rediscover a healthy relationship with food— so that they can enjoy food as sustenance and not as a support system.
Unlike many other “weight loss programs,” the Hungry Heart is all about uncovering the root reasons why you overeat. What are you using food to cope with? What does food represent to your mind and your heart? By answering these questions, we’re able to help you “flip the switch” in your mind and begin losing excess weight naturally.
Do you feel stuck in a pattern of binge eating? Yo-yo dieting? Constantly making bad food decisions? There is a way out!
Great post, Lauren!