Every once in a while, I need a night off.
I'm sure everyone with kids knows what I'm talking about. Once or twice a month, my husband and I head out for some quiet alone time. Whether it's a leisurely walk, a movie, or dinner at our favorite restaurant, we make sure to make time for just the two of us.
But every time I slide into a restaurant booth, I realize how difficult it is to eat healthy in a culture where "large" is only the midway point for portion sizes.
Eating out can be an absolute nightmare if you're committed to a healthy eating plan. It would probably be easier to just stay home! But sometimes it's unavoidable: family members have birthday celebrations, you forget to run to the grocery store for dinner, or you have a particularly exhausting day at work and just don't want to cook.
Plus, going out to dinner can be fun. It's nice to be cooked for and waited on every now and then!
Luckily, healthy eating and eating out don't have to be mutually exclusive. It's not always easy, but there are a few tips and tricks you can use to make sure a night on the town doesn't wreck your weight-loss progress.
- Hold the bread. Bread baskets are a stalling technique for the restaurant; if you're just sitting at your table twiddling your thumbs, you'll grow impatient waiting for your food. Mindless munching takes your mind off how long your grilled chicken is taking in the back, but it doesn't mesh well with a healthy eating plan. Tell your server to hold the bread basket so you won't be tempted. If your hands need something to do, fiddle with your straw wrapper or twirl your fork, neither of which will send your blood sugar through the roof.
- Be annoying. I used to think my dad was the most annoying restaurant guest ever. He never ordered a dish the way it was presented on the menu - he always had at least one substitution. When I was 13, I was embarrassed. Now, I'm impressed, and I emulate him at nearly every restaurant I go to.
- Ask questions, and specify exactly what you want. This is particularly true when it comes to vegetables. Most restaurants drown their veggies in butter - one server friend told me that carrots are often cooked with butter and sugar - to give them a richer, more flavorful taste. Steamed vegetables are the way to go on a healthy eating plan, and nearly every kitchen will make them for you.
- Go easy on the salt. Even if salt isn't listed on the menu as an ingredient in your meal, it's probably in there. And most restaurants aren't using unrefined sea salt in their cooking. Unfortunately, too much "bad" salt can throw a healthy eating plan out of whack. As a rule, ask the kitchen to go light on the salt. And be especially wary of any dish with sauce in it, since those will almost always have extra salt.
- Ask for dressing on the side. This is pretty self-evident. Salad dressing can turn a healthy meal into the fancy-restaurant equivalent of a fast-food burger in no time at all. Get the dressing on the side - or better yet, go for oil and vinegar instead.