When most people think about going out to eat, they picture endless (free) bread and drink refills, giant man-sized portions that only Champion-Eater Joey Chestnut should be able to finish, and menus loaded with high-definition photos of dishes that make you fatter just by looking at them.
But, while most restaurants are guilty of doing seemingly everything they can to sabotage healthy diets everywhere, this doesn’t mean you can’t find healthy and waist-cinching meals outside your own home/ dorm room.
If you want to be able to eat out and enjoy your food without worrying about destroying your sleek and sexy figure, just master these 6 simple fat-fighting restaurant strategies!
Strategy #1: Ruin your Appetite
You should never grocery shop while hungry, because you’ll buy everything in sight. Likewise, if you go to a restaurant “starving”, odds are you’ll EAT everything in sight.
While the tendency is to “save up” room in our bellies prior to meeting friends or family for dinner at a restaurant, this is a MAJOR diet mistake, and will make it much harder for you to make rational and healthy choices (and will make that bread basket look like God’s greatest gift to mankind…) So, instead of arriving at the restaurant ready to gnaw off your own arm, “ruin” your appetite ahead of time with a healthy low-calorie snack, such as an apple or glass of skim milk.
Strategy #2: Wear Something Tight-Fitting
Maternity shirts are for pregnant women. So, unless you want to leave the restaurant with a 5-pound “food baby”, leave the loose-fitting and billowy tops and bottoms at home ladies!
Instead, wear something with a form-fitting mid-section, or add a waist-cinching belt to something loose. I know it sounds ridiculous, but wearing something that is a little tighter around your waist will help make you more aware of your body, your fullness level, and how you want to look in the long run... to avoid stuffing yourself silly in the short term!
Strategy #3: Choose the Restaurant Wisely
While most restaurants are now featuring healthier dishes on their menus, you’ll definitely still want to make careful choices about where you go out to eat.
Avoid old-fashioned American or “home-style” restaurants, pizza shops, French cuisine, and buffet-style establishments. If you’ve never been there before, it’s also a good idea to check out the menu. Most restaurants now post menus with nutrition facts online… so if you don’t like what you see, ask your friends/family to go to a healthier alternative instead!
Strategy #4: Learn how to Read the Menu
Don’t fall for the menu’s mouth-watering pictures or “restaurant favorites”. Chances are these feature some of the highest fat options on the menu! Instead, learn to read the menu carefully, steering clear of menu items containing words like: buttery, butter sauce, cream sauce, sautéed, fried, breaded, crispy, creamy, with gravy, au gratin, escalloped, battered, carbonara, Alfredo, stuffed with cheese, cheesy, mayonnaise, large, stacked, drenched, etc.
Instead, select entrees and sides that are steamed, poached, in broth, garden-fresh, roasted, broiled, baked, grilled, braised, marinara, and with lots and lots of veggies! Salads are also a wise option, but remember that not all salads are created equal. If the salad comes drenched in creamy high-fat dressings, cheese, buttery croutons, bacon bits, and fried chicken… well… then, you might as well just stop pretending and order the triple cheeseburger.
Strategy #5: Customize your Order
Probably the most important of all, don’t be afraid to give your waiter/waitress detailed instructions on how you want your meal prepared! If you’re not used to doing this, it might be awkward at first… but after a while it becomes second nature. Plus, no one has any right to make you feel bad about it -- the food is MADE TO ORDER, and you are paying for it after all.
Ask for sauces, dressings, etc. on the side. Or better yet, ask for lemon wedges and olive oil in lieu of these high-fat options. You should also substitute diet-wrecking sides such as fries and pastas for side salads, vegetables, and fresh fruit. And remember, just because the restaurant doesn’t list it on the menu, doesn’t mean they won’t do it for you -- so don’t be afraid to ask questions and make special requests either! (“Is that fish fried or grilled?”, “Please don’t add butter to my vegetables”, etc.)
I seriously cannot remember the last time I went to a restaurant without making modifications to my order!
Strategy #6: Eat Happily
Even after your food arrives, there are still some steps you can take to make sure you don’t sabotage your healthy plan. For starters, learn to take in the atmosphere! Look around, eat slowly, and focus on enjoying conversations with your loved ones instead of sticking your face in your plate the whole time. You should also try to drink plenty of water -- I usually ask the waiter/waitress to bring a pitcher of water or iced tea to the table, to avoid running out of beverages during the meal.
Another favorite strategy of mine is to have an unspoken “race” with other people at the table… to be the LAST person done eating. If you eat too fast, you don’t give your stomach time to realize it’s full (it usually takes about 5 minutes for your stomach to send the signal to your brain to stop eating!)
OK there you have it, the skinny on how to take your healthy diet out to eat! If you liked this article, you’ll LOVE the personalized nutrition plan! Check out the 2-week program or 14-week complete program below for more great strategies and tips to help you reach your healthy weight loss goals.