Eating Out On a Diet
N.B. This blog is also available in Finnish and you’ll find it here
Are you on a diet and got invited to spend evening with friends at the restaurant? No worries, say yes and have fun! Your social life doesn’t have to suffer just because you want to eat healthier or you are on a strict diet. You just have to know few facts and do some swaps while ordering!
With these tips you can enjoy fully at the restaurant without ruining your diet!
Be prepared. Most restaurants post their menus online these days, so be smart and save yourself from the stress and check their menus beforehand. If you wait to see the menu until you’re on the spot, you may get sidetracked by your grumbling belly and peer pressure of your company. Decide before you go what you’ll order, stick to your decision once you get there, and let the others have those greasy side fries!
Don’t skip meals. It’s common that people “save calories” during the day before going out for dinner. That is actually one of the worst things you can do, because by the time you arrive at the restaurant you’re starving, and only thing you can see is the bread basket or that salty snack mixture! Couple (or more) butter coated bread pieces later, you’ve vacuumed in several hundred empty calories — and you haven’t spoken to the waiter yet!
So no, don’t do that! Instead, have a light lunch (such as a salad/veggies with chicken/fish) and a small snack (a yogurt with a handful of unsalted nuts, for example) before the dinner, and you’ll thank yourself on a next morning.
Forget complimentary snacks. In most restaurants they bring to you some small snacks almost with the same second you step in to the restaurant. Skip them, let the others have them all! Usually these snacks are full of fast carbs, salt and loaded with unhealthy fats. Besides that, they take away your appetite for that healthier food you’re going to order.
Make healthy swaps. Before ordering, ask the server about the details of the meal and don’t be afraid to make special requests. For example, order olive oil and vinegar instead of high calorie salad dressings, and a side salad or baked potato instead of fries. Whole grain bread instead of a white bun or croissant, and a double serving of vegetables instead of starchy things (pasta, potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice etc.) are always a diet friendly choices. Order your food grilled, baked, broiled, poached, or steamed instead of fried. In many restaurants they do have the option for example to prepare your chicken without deep frying it in an oil bucket, they just don’t mention it anywhere, because it takes more time. So ask, make healthy swaps and be proud of your choices.
Skip the alcohol. Alcohol and dieting don’t mix well, because your body processes alcohol first, leaving carbs and fats to get stored as fat instead of getting used as fuel. If, despite the above, you want to order a drink with others, choose a small glass of wine instead of sugary cocktails.
Be aware of portion sizes. Even if carbs are important nutrients and your body needs for proper functioning, it’s essential to pay attention to the portion sizes and the number of servings you actually eat. One big bagel (not to mention the baguettes!) can easily be three to five servings of bread, and a large plate of spaghetti is usually three or more servings of pasta, when served at restaurants.
Don’t stuff yourself. Even though restaurant food is most of the cases heavenly delicious, and you might eat out rarely, don’t get stuffed! Don’t listen to your mom this time, because it’s better for you, if you don’t finish everything on your plate. Listen to your hunger and fullness levels, and your body will tell you when it has got enough food. Just remember to eat slowly enough!
Skip the main course. Appetizers at most restaurants are often pretty filling and among them you can usually find healthy options easily. I’m not talking about skipping the whole eating thing and ordering only one appetizer, if you got scared, I’m suggesting you to order a full meals worth of food. After you have finished “a normal” appetizer, choose a couple of appetizers as your main course, instead of ordering full meal. You get satisfied and probably with fewer calories.
Share the dessert. If you can’t or don’t want to (I understand you so well, I personally can’t find any long-term benefits from complete refusal) skip the whole dessert, share it with someone. Order your favorite ice cream portion or piece of cake, and let the entire table nibble on it. This way you get to indulge your favorite treat without going overboard with calories and ruining your diet.
Have a delicious dinner,