Every year, Americans spend almost $750 billion eating out. On average, they eat out at a restaurant about four times over the course of a week. This time of year there are even more invitations to gather over food.
This can make life very difficult for those who are trying to stick to a weight loss plan. While it’s easy to restrain yourself and stay true to your plan when you’re eating at home, it’s also easy to throw your inhibitions out the window at a restaurant and eat whatever you want.
If you’re committed to sticking to the food plan you have set up, there are ways you can be smart while eating out. By staying aware and mindful, you can continue to stay on track at a restaurant without a problem.
Here are some tips for being smart about what you eat when you’re out at a restaurant.
Tell Those You’re Eating Out With About Your Diet
Are you going to be eating out with a family member or friend? If so, give them a heads up about your plan and let them know that your goal is important to you and you’re planning to stick to it.
It’s not fair to ask someone else to abstain from eating an unhealthy meal. If they want to order a hamburger or a cheesesteak, they should be allowed to do it.
But at the very least, letting others know about your diet will force them to rethink the way they talk about food at the table. They’ll be less inclined to talk about how good all of the unhealthy food looks and might even follow your lead and go with a healthy meal.
Choose a Restaurant That Offers Healthy Options
In addition to telling whoever you’re going to be eating out with about your diet, you should also put some real thought into where you go out to eat.
If you choose a place that serves nothing but unhealthy options, you’re going to be setting yourself up to fail. Instead, try and pick a place that has some healthy choices for you.
The good news is that many restaurants understand that people want healthy options and have started to provide them. But not all restaurants take this approach.
Steer clear of the places that only serve foods that are high in fat, carbohydrates, and everything else you’re staying away from. It’ll serve you well in the end.
Check Out a Restaurant’s Menu Before You Arrive
Most restaurants have their menus on their websites these days. Take advantage of this by perusing a restaurant’s menu before you arrive at it.
By doing this, you’ll give yourself the chance to get excited about whatever meal you want to eat. You won’t be quite as tempted by all the burgers and fries flying around your head once you get to the restaurant.
Go out with your plan in place. Remember – “failing to plan is planning to fail”
Make the Meal You Want as Healthy as It Can Be
Most restaurants offer healthy meals to their customers. But there are ways you can make a healthy meal even healthier by getting a little bit creative.
For example, if you order a salad, it’s probably going to come covered in some kind of dressing. That dressing could very well contain tons of calories that will ruin your diet. You can get around this by asking your server to bring your dressing out to you on the side. Then you can manage the amount you use.
You can also substitute certain sides for healthier options. Swap out the starch that comes with the meal for extra veg. I do often and it is never an issue.
If you’re unsure of what healthy options you have available to you, ask your waiter to suggest how to make a meal healthier before it arrives.
Practice Portion Control When Your Meal Arrives
Portion control can be a big problem at a restaurant. More often than not, restaurants serve huge meals to their customers with more food than they can possibly eat.
When you have a lot of food on your plate, you’re going to be tempted to eat it all. Especially when distracted by all the great conversations with others over dinner. We tend to be less mindful and therefore less aware of when we are feeling full. Rather than doing that, decide how much you’re going to eat before you start and then stick to it. You can even cut off a portion of the food before you start eating and move it to your side plate to take home with you if appropriate.
Eat as Slowly as You Can and Enjoy Your Company
Many people overeat simply because they eat too quickly. They shovel food into their mouths too fast and don’t give their brains time to process what’s happening.
Before they know it, they’re stuffed and can’t believe how much they ate. It’s a common problem that lots of people face at restaurants.
Instead of eating quickly, slow yourself down and chew your food. In between bites, talk with whoever you’re eating with and avoid rushing through your meal.
A helpful trick is to make a point of putting down your fork between bites and wait a bit before picking it up again.
It’ll allow you to enjoy your meal more overall. It’ll also help you catch up with your family members and friends as you eat.
Resist the Urge to Order Dessert
“Is anyone ready for dessert?”
Before you started your diet, you might have yelled “YES!” when the waiter came to your table and asked that question.
But now that you’re following a food plan to help you lose weight, it’s important for you to stay away from sugary treats that aren’t good for you. That means skipping the pie, cake, and ice cream at a restaurant.
It won’t be easy to do this at first. But eating dessert could end up reversing all the good you just did for yourself by sticking to your food plan during your meal. So make a strong effort not to indulge in dessert when the waiter asks if you want any.
If they do have fresh fruit on the menu you could ask for that if you feel self conscious about not having dessert when everybody else is ordering one. Although I honestly find more often than not, people are getting away from ordering desserts even those who are not trying to lose weight so there is no need to feel self conscious about skipping dessert.
Eating Out Doesn’t Have to Derail Your Plan
You don’t need to avoid eating out altogether when you’re trying to lose weight. You simply need to be smart about your approach to eating at restaurants and other establishments.
You can eat out regularly and still lose weight as long as you choose the right foods to eat and stay away from anything that will make you revert back to your old ways.
When I am coaching my clients we spend time discussing all the strategies they can use when eating out whether it is for social occasions or business events so they are set up for success.