Last night was my first night eating out since I started working with my Working Against Gravity coach. I stressed out about it a little more than I should have. It wasn’t the fact that I was on a date that had my blood pressure rising, but the fact that I was eating incredible, amazing food, but food I didn’t prepare myself, didn’t know all the ingredients of, and couldn’t weigh to track accurately.
Ultimately, I threw my hands up, ate what I wanted within reason, and logged everything the best I could in MyFitnessPal, choosing to enjoy the company I was with and remember that one night of going over my macros a little won’t derail my progress.
Going to a restaurant should be a fun, enjoyable outing, not a stress-inducing social setting in which you worry so much about what you’re eating that you can’t relax and enjoy yourself. While last night threatened to get under my skin, I took a step back and used some of my tried-and-true tips for making healthy choices at restaurants.
As we head into the weekend, I thought I would share a few of those tips, just in case you have brunch plans or a hot date on the books.
Whether I’m picking up Chipotle to go or sitting down at a nice restaurant, I always look at the menu ahead of time. This lets me decide in advance what the healthiest options are for me to choose from. For example, I have dinner plans with friends this weekend. I’ve pulled up the restaurant’s menu, picked out what I’m going to order, and already plugged it into MyFitnessPal so I know how many macros I have left for the day.
This tip is especially helpful if you have dietary restrictions like gluten or dairy, or are doing Whole30. I had to go to Washington, D.C., while on Whole30, so I looked up Sweetgreens menu ahead of time, figured out what ingredients were compliant, and had the best salad ever, at least until I get back to Sweetgreens again.
ASK THE WAITER
Most wait staff are well-versed in their menus. If you have questions about how something is cooked – for instance, what kind of oil do they use? – just ask! They can tell you how food is prepared, what their healthiest options are, and put in special requests for you, such as hold a heavy sauce, or put the dressing on the side. Waiters are especially helpful if you do have any diet restrictions.
One of the things I’ve noticed while traveling is that other countries have normal serving sizes. When we go to an Italian restaurant in the United States, we’re typically served a bread basket to start, a salad to follow, and then large plates teeming with noodles, sauces, and heavy creams. While in Italy, there was no bread or salad unless you ordered it, and a very normal-sized serving of pasta. They were, however, quite generous with the wine, which was okay by me.
Since us Americans are of a “bigger is better” mentality, plates in restaurants are generally far more generous than an actual serving size. When you order, ask the waiter to bring a to-go box and immediately put half of your food in the box when it arrives at your table. That way, you won’t be tempted to keep eating, just because there is food in front of you. I’m especially guilty of this when it comes to free chips and salsa at Mexican restaurants!
BRING YOUR SCALE
If you’re really serious about tracking serving sizes and/or macros, purchase a travel-sized food scale and keep it in your bag. Ask the waiter for a second plate and use it to weigh your food before you eat. I haven’t done this (yet!), but I have a couple of friends who do. You will definitely get some strange looks, but if it works for you, go for it.
DON’T STRESS ABOUT IT
A bit of the pot calling the kettle black here, given that I confessed my stresses ahead of last night’s meal, but going out to restaurants or even picking up takeout is supposed to be fun. While you might think that cheeseburger and french fries from your favorite local burger joint has completely derailed all progress ever made in the history of progress, it really, really hasn’t. I promise. You may feel a little icky the next day, but just pick right back up where you left off on the healthy eating train and let your body do its thing.
After all, what’s a burger and fries if its not washed down by a milkshake from time to time? A visit to Cheesecake Factory without a slice of cheesecake? A swing through the Wendy’s drive thru without a frosty?
A trip to Chick-Fil-A without a peach milkshake?
*insert praise hands here*
At the end of the day, we’re all human. Give yourself some grace to enjoy a good dinner and good company, whether you use these tips or call “cheat meal.”
What are your tips for making healthy choices when eating out?