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?
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.
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?