We all know we should be “eating clean” and making better food choices as much as possible, but why is it so difficult to actually DO? If I am preparing my own meals at home, then it’s not much of a challenge at all. When I’m traveling, don’t have control over my food or there are too many options, however, that’s when I fall into poor eating habits. One of my biggest struggles with eating healthy was when it came to dining out. This was especially difficult for me because I love love love trying new restaurants and different types of cuisines.
When my husband and I first moved to Portland,OR in 2013, we were excited to experience the amazing food scene (especially brunch). We basically made it our hobby to dine out and try new foods. We still, however were eating healthy whenever we ate at home and continued working out. After several weeks of enjoying our new hobby together we noticed a standstill when it came to our fitness progress. Our love for eating out and attending many social events was not loving us back. We learned that the saying “you can’t outwork a healthy diet” was all too true.
I chose to address this situation with a simple solution of simply not eating at all anymore. But can I tell you how sad this made me feel! Dining out is often a common way of celebrating, socializing and networking. I experienced major FOMO (fear of missing out), but I kept telling myself if I went out to eat I would not find anything healthy on the menu. On one occasion, I tried meeting friends at a restaurant but ate at home before going. Well that was awkward..just watching them eat was not a fun experience. Another time, I just ordered the house salad which was boring and did not fill me up. I proceeded to go home and stuff my face because I was still so hungry. Another fail! I’m pretty sure people were getting annoyed by my healthy eating obsession. I needed to find balance!
After much trial and error, and I wish I could say it happened over night but it didn’t, I created a plan & guidelines for myself to stick to whenever I dined out. They’ve helped me maintain balance so that I can enjoy new restaurants, celebrate with friends, and still try new, delicious cuisines guilt-free.
ALWAYS LEAVE LEFTOVERS
With my new strategy in place I can eat out and eat healthy but still enjoy foods I love. How I do this is by first, choosing healthy options from the menu. But what if I see something that sounds absolutely delicious or that I’ll never get a chance to try again? What if I really want pizza? Ok, in this case rather than deprive myself completely I will order that dish, enjoy it, but leave half of it!
Restaurants often serve super sized portions and we don’t even realize how much we are eating. We think we are enjoying a normal amount of food, but often the servings sizes are double and triple what they should be. This is called portion distortion. I leave half of my meal and it’s actually a treat because then I have left overs for the next day’s lunch or for my husband to enjoy.
SHARING IS CARING
Another option for enjoying great food without the guilt, is to share! Yes, share with your friends. This way you’re automatically having a smaller portion size.
DECIDE WHERE YOU WANT TO EAT & CHECK THE MENU IN ADVANCE
This is my biggest tip to you when it comes to eating healthy while dining out. If you can have a hand in deciding what restaurant to eat at, you stand a better chance at finding a place with somewhat healthier options on their menu. The good news is that nowadays more and more restaurants are including healthier meal options (and in some cases even the nutrition facts) onto their menus. I love Yelp! Try this app out when researching places to eat. It’s an easy way to see food photos, read tips and reviews before showing up to a place. Whether you have a hand in choosing the restaurant or not, always try to take a peek at the menu beforehand and decide what you’ll be ordering in advance.
THINGS TO AVOID
The first thing to avoid is that warm, irresistible complimentary bread they bring to the table at most places. I would advise don’t have any, but if we are being more realistic let’s settle on limiting yourself to just one piece. If you’re like me, though, and lack a bit of control, just politely ask the bread not be served at your table altogether.
Something else I watch out for when dining out are those lovely adjectives that make the food sound oh so delicious. Words like crispy or smothered are red flags for me! I do my best to steer clear of anything fried or covered in any creamy, oil-based sauce. This includes salad dressings (ask for it on the side).
Sometimes I find the chef is willing to prepare a dish without oil or butter, or make it grilled instead of fried. You never know if you don’t ask. Which bring me to my next tip…
DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK
Just because there is seemingly nothing on the menu that meets my criteria for eating healthy, it doesn’t mean it’s not possible. There have been quite a few times where I ordered few of the side dishes and voilà, I had a complete meal.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for an alternative to those french fries. More than likely, there is a salad or steamed veggie option available.
DON’T GO TO DINNER HANGRY
Ok remember this one and plan ahead! Do not ever go out to eat when you are full on hangry, because you never know how long the wait might be and add to that the length of time it takes for your food to get to your table. When you are super hungry, you’re less likely to think about portion control or make good food choices.
Speaking of good choices…
ALCOHOL WEAKENS YOUR WILLPOWER
Slow down on the cocktails. Not only are you drinking unnecessary calories and sugar, but alcohol diminishes your willpower. You’re more likely to make poor choices and eat more than you intended when under the influence.
More and more restaurants are becoming aware of the need for improved nutrition and are offering healthier options on their menu, making it easier for you and me to dine out stress-free.
Fast forward 2.5 years, my husband and I now live in North Carolina and are exploring a brand new food scene. I’m now much more comfortable with dining out and feel confident that I’ll be able to make healthy choices. I still, however, limit the amount of times I eat out to once or twice per week. This is what I have found the best balance with. I encourage you to find your own balance when it comes to living healthy and eating better. Try out the strategies that have helped my husband and I stay healthy without sacrificing our social life and love for good food.
So now you know my biggest obstacle when it comes to eating healthy,
WHAT IS YOURS?
Health & Happiness,