Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Eating Healthy While Eating Out

Restaurants are evil.

I don't want to alarm you, but if you've ever had any kind of disagreement with the scale at home you'll agree that eating out typically tends to strain that already tense relationship. And why wouldn't it? The goal of a restaurant is to feed you, and feed you well. The more food you consume the more profitable you become, and the better the food tastes, the more likely you are to return and become profitable once again. They want you to leave stuffed. Anything less and they consider you a missed opportunity.

But that doesn't mean you have to throw in the towel just yet. Eating out doesn't have to end in an unavoidable guilt coma, believe it or not it can actually be a pretty enjoyable experience. Provided, however, that you are somewhat prepared. 

But first, we need to cover the mentality of eating out. Let's debunk two important myths, shall we?

1.) This occasion is special. I'm going to treat myself while I'm here.

Unless you are on vacation at a 12 star restaurant (fictitious, I know), this myth will be your downfall. Eating out at Olive Garden is not special. Once a year? Then it's special. Once a week? Not even close.

We have it ingrained into our heads that eating out is a unique and special experience that we need to take advantage of. It's not. Think to yourself how often you realistically eat out. Now I want you to think back to one time when you ate at Olive Garden and really wanted desert but you had to skip it. Do you regret it now? Probably not. The fact is, it's only a special, unique experience if you think 10 years down the road you are seriously going to still regret not eating the cheesy garlic biscuit. Otherwise, face reality. The cheesy garlic biscuit was there last time, it's going to be there next time.

So in order to break this thought process, I'm going to give you a little assignment. I want you to go to dinner sometime this week, and order nothing but healthy items. No bread basket, no deep fried mozzerella sticks, and no "death by chocolate" cake. Eat healthily and only until you're full, then pay your tab and leave. Don't rush, but don't linger. As soon as you leave, write down how you feel. Stuffed? Guilty? Disgusting? Tired? Doubtful. How about empowered? Healthy? Energetic? Probably. Try it, see what happens. Keep that list of emotions with you and the next time you meet your buddies for dinner take a look at it.

2.) I'll burn it off at the gym in the morning.
As a general rule, never do something now that you have to make up for in the future. It almost never works out that way. Remember the theory of willpower? Right now your body wants to eat whatever it can get down. You say no, and it fights you. Letting it win only fuels that little toddler inside you. When it's time to go to the gym tomorrow and your body doesn't want to go, what's it going to do? Fight you. Just like a toddler. It already knows it can win, it did last night.

So train your body, like a toddler, to listen to your mind when it says 'no' the first time. Stick to your guns. Soon, your body will begin to function on the same level as your mind. You think to yourself, "I already had a piece of cake, and I want another one, but I'm not going to have one." Decision made. End of story.

Now that a couple mental myths have been covered, this brings me to:

5 Tips For Healthy Restaurant Eating

1.)Ask them not to bring out the bread basket.

It's not rude, it's brilliant. If it's not there, you won't eat it. Plus, if they do bring it and you don't eat it? They have to throw it out. Wasted food.

2.)Always order the dressing or the sauce you want, just be sure to get it on the side.

Sauces, dressings, extras (sour cream, quacamole), and condiments (mayonnaise, ketchup) account for most of the unnecessary calories in a meal (save alcohol). So find a way to use them sparingly. For example, you want full-fat blue cheese dressing? Order it, just make sure it's on the side. What I do is dip my fork in the dressing before each bite of salad. That way you get a bit with some dressing, not too much, not too little, and you end up hardly using any at all.

Same with sauces. Don't pour the sauce all over your plate, cut your food into bites and dip it into the sauce. You'll be surprised how much less you use.

3.) If it's not unbelievably good, don't eat it.

You aren't at your in-laws house. You don't have to clear your plate in order to be polite. In a restaurant you're paying for your meal, and if it's not exceptional, there's no reason to keep eating.

I once read an interview with a woman who owns a prominent cookie company. The interviewer asked her how she stays so fit, being she's around cookies all day. Her answer? If it wasn't the best cookie she's ever put in her mouth, why would she take another bite? Why not just find the cookie she's really craving and spend her allotted calories on a truly delicious experience?

4.) Save carbs for last.
If you're at a buffet, fill up on salad and fruit first, and then lean protein (shrimp, fish, baked/grilled chicken) before making your way over to the pasta station. Think of carbs as a desert, not the main dish. You're eating fruits and veggies for dinner, but you get a few bites of pasta as a desert. I gaurantee you'll eat considerably less of the bad stuff if you make an effort to fill up on good stuff first.

At a sit down spot? Order extra veggies. There's no law saying you have to have a potato with your steamed veggies. Order double veggies instead of the potato. I've done this numberous occasions, and a waiter has never so much as batted an eye at me for doing it.

5.) Drink water only.

I know, I know, this one probably devestating, but it needs to be in here. Beverages account for an amazing amount of calories, and in restaurants these drinks are usually bottomless. Save the soda for dinner at home, when you can control how much you're drinking.
So try out a couple of these rules and see what happens. After all, there's no point in going out to eat if you're going to regret it as soon as you leave? You're paying for your meal, you might as well make it an enjoyable experience.

What other tips do you have to eat healthy when eating out?

 BWS tips button    Blogging Hints Catch a Wave Wednesday   


  1. Good post! Is fantastic!


  2. This is so true. I've been following better dietary habits for the last two months and have experienced that its so unnecesary to give it all up for one nights going out. Its totally achievable to still eat healthy while eating out and enjoying it if you only change the way you think about it! Another important part I had to learn, is not always finishing whats on my plate. Some restaurants really load your plate and you feel guilty (if you're always broke like me) if you dont finish it, but I've learned that the guilt of the extra kilograms outweigh the guilt of not finishing it. (pun intended ;>)

  3. Good points. A plus point for drinking water is that you'll fully appreciate the taste of the meal. Even when we're out celebrating something with the BF, I usually only get water with my Indian or Japanese food.

  4. Think of what you want to eat-then get it.

    If you've been on a salad binge the past month and you want to go out to eat, once you get there review NOTHING but salads in the menu. That way you won't derail your focus and goal.

    If it is a special occasion (anniversary, graduation) then once you order your food, ask for a to go box before the meal even comes out. That way once it does you can automatically cut the portions in half, both saving calories (for another day's meal) and cost (2 for 1!)


  5. Great tips for eating out! Following you back! :)

  6. Really nice post. Heck the whole blog is nice. Stopping over from Post it Note Tuesday. Hope you have a good week.

  7. Hi Marlee! Your site is adorable. Good tips. Lots of relevant info. Thanks for visiting my site, Mommy, Where Are You! (www.mommywhereareyou.com). I'm following you back. :)

  8. Great tips! Drinking water when I eat out makes all the difference in feeling sick and stuffed vs healthy and satisfied. :)


  9. GREAT TIPS!!!! Following you. Please follow me too at: http://chatonsworld.blogspot.com.

  10. New follower from Follow Me Back Tuesday!


  11. Great post, it's so hard! Ok, I'm trying...

    The Tuckerbag

  12. Great tips! Totally agree about restaurants being evil. As fabulous as they are, I once ate out four times in a week (it was a very busy week, socially) and felt SO bloated as a result.

    My healthy tips for eating at restaurants....
    + Order entree sized mains.
    + Share dessert with a friend
    + If you must have wine, then skip dessert

    I'm totally guilty of treating each restaurant dinner as if it's a special occasion. And I love your tip about not eating anything that isn't unbelievably good - eating average food is just a waste of calories!

    Great post xxx

  13. New follower from the Catch a Wave Wednesday blog hop. Great topic--in the past few months, we've radically changed our eating habits, and reducing eating out was right at the top of the list! Check out my blog when you get a chance:

  14. Hi just calling by whilst blog hopping. Be sure to check out my Autism Awarenesss Wednesday Blog hop.
    www.acceptandembraceautism.blogspot.com Sarah

  15. Follwoing you via I love blogging wednesday hop. Hope you will follow me too @ http://masalabowl.blogspot.com/2011/06/day-330-winner-announcement-blog-hop.html

  16. Not only does soda have a ton of calories, but it's expensive (especially on a student's budget) and it can be filling which doesn't let me enjoy my food nearly as much!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and following...I am following you back now :)

  17. Great post! Restaurants like to laden their foods with the addictive taste of fats. I am a new fan from the hop.



  18. Those are all really great tips! It's sure hard to resist good bread and wine before the meal!

  19. Great tips!
    Will apply them by heart.

    P.S. Thanks for your comment.
    I've been following you via GFC.
    See you around.


  20. such a great post! It fits perfectly with my post from Monday... ^^

  21. all very good points...i love the drinking the water all the time! good to keep hydrated!

  22. Hi! Thank you for visiting my Indiana Inker blog. I've added your blog hop button to my other blog, Coupons, Crafts and Causes. I have a hop, Subscriber Swap Hop that starts on Wednesday and ends early Friday mornings. I'd love for you to join and add it to your list.

    Have a great evening,


    Coupons, Crafts and Causes
    Coupons, Crafts and Causes - Facebook
    Indiana Inker
    Indiana Inker - FB

  23. Another amazing post full of great tips I just have to pass along to all my friends and followers!!! Thanks again Marlee! I've been able to stick to eating only water and mostly ordering good things but my biggest flaw when going out to eat was when we were at a buffet. You gave some great advice I'll definitely remember the next time I go though!

  24. Awesome tips! Thanks for linking to Thrifty Thursday. I am a happy new follower. Blessings...

  25. Will post that on my note. Thanks for sharing your wonderful thoughts.
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