Yep we’ve all been there before – worrying about eating out when we’re trying to make healthier choices. It doesn’t have to be difficult! And you most certainly don’t have to choose between your health and your social life – you absolutely can have both! Here are some tips to help you out in situations where you don’t have as much control over the food in front of you.
- CHECK THE MENU
If you’re not familiar with the restaurant or type of food, check out the menu before you go. See which items might suit you and what sides or combos you can make to tick your boxes. This is also a great way to avoid choice pressure and peer pressure (or food envy I like to call it in this situation!). Coming up with a plan in advance -before you get hungry – will make it much easier to stick to when you sit down to order. Bonus points if you can order first so you don’t get carried away by everyone elses decisions and get swayed to change your mind. Eventually, you’ll choose better by default, but in the early stages of your journey, planning ahead is vital to keep you on track.
- DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK
Many people think they’re being a bother by asking for swaps or changes to their dishes – get past that! You may come across a few inflexible establishments who aren’t willing to make changes, but most of the time places are more than used to catering to dietary requests. Asking for dishes without bread or with salad instead of fries is all pretty standard. Rather than relying on your willpower to avoid that buttery slice of bread on your plate, ask for the dish without it. That way you remove the decision and willpower aspect entirely and can just focus on all the delicious, healthy stuff you’ve chosen to have on your plate.
- HAVE A STARTER SALAD OR A PRE-SNACK!
If the place you’re going isn’t quite the most desirable for your needs, start with an appetiser salad or even have a veggie rich healthy snack before you leave home. That way, if the only option is a plate full of pasta, you’ll have already got your veggie portion in for the evening and you’ll be a little less ravenous and will likely eat just a little less – you could even order just an entree size instead!
- DON’T GET SIDETRACKED BY JUDGEMENT (your own or others!)
You might think people will judge your choices when you’re swapping items or just having an entree – but to hell with them all! If they’re truly invested in your wellbeing they’ll understand your choices. Don’t let judgement (or fear of judgement) taint your choices or make you cave to peer pressure. If you’re the only one at the table having a salad so be it. Holding your ‘Why’ strong in your mind in these times is super important. Remember that you’re doing this for a reason and your choices are your own to make. No one else’s opinion matters. It helps also to come from a place of preference rather than restriction. Rather than thinking or saying ‘I can’t have that’ replace it with ‘I don’t want that’ or ‘ I don’t feel like that’ or ‘I’d just prefer this tonight’. This places the power firmly back in your own hands.
- SALAD ISN’T THE ONLY OPTION!
Don’t think you’re resigned to eating salads every time you go out from here on in. There are many ways to enjoy healthy foods while you’re out that don’t rely on salad! Choose items that have a good protein and fat base with vegetables. You’ll often be able to add sides of vegetables to your meals or choose other items that can be modified to fit.
- SHARE YOUR MEAL
Sharing items can help you eat the best parts of multiple dishes! Nibble on the meat, healthy fats and veg from each dish and leave the other undesirable portions on the plate.
- MIX IT UP
Order 2 entrees, or an entree and a couple of sides, or even a combination of sides. Don’t feel restricted by the menu, instead look at ways to be creative and combine items to suit you.
- CONSIDER YOUR BEVERAGES
Sipping on water can help to fill you up and even keep you busy while others tuck into the bread starters if you choose not to. Watch out for sugary beverages like sodas and juices and instead opt for sparkling water. If you’re like me you’ll often find yourself ordering drinks you would never normally drink just because you’re eating out! Be conscious of your choices and decide if it is something you really want or need.
- EAT SLOWLY, MINDFULLY AND STOP AT 80% FULL
This is one of the BIGGEST things. So much so it should really be at the top of the list. Whatever you’re eating, even if it is the greasiest, stodgiest burger fries and icecream, if you eat slowly, mindfully and stop when you’re 80% full (that point where you’re no longer hungry but not full and stuffed) you’re body will self regulate your portions. This is especially important when eating out as you’re often chatting, laughing, drinking and suddenly you’ve eaten an a couple of courses plus dessert and you need to undo the button of your jeans! Being mindful of each bite, savouring the textures and flavours, chewing thoroughly and putting your utensils down between bites will not only help regulate your portions but you’ll enjoy the meal so much more!