The other day my friend Dave wanted to go out to dinner. But, I get angst eating out with Dave. Actually, not just Dave, but anytime I go out. Eating a healthy lifestyle requires you not to just watch calories, fat, carbs, etc. But it also requires finding food I want to eat. Which usually means something fresh, vegetarian and not overly processed (that’s a whole long story I will need to blog about later).
Over the past few years I’ve really learned how to hone the process to make sure I stay on my diet and avoid wrecking my goals. In that time I’ve kind of become a tad anal about where I eat, what I eat, what I want in or on that dish. Even though I’ve probably become a waiter’s hinderance, I’m not going to leave my health in anyone else’s hands. I took that back over four years ago.
So, eating out with Dave brought me a small amount of angst, because he’s very opinionated about where he eats (this is a long story that doesn’t have space here). Needless to say, we were going to Chili’s regardless of other options. I’m fine with that decision, I’ve learned how to deal with food options out of my control (namely any vacation taken with my family).
I thought by outlining my process might help someone else. The process is actually pretty simple, but very helpful.
1) Decide your restaurant well in advance, not on the fly.
In my bigger days this was one of my biggest downfalls. Oft times if I was hungry I would grab food and it didn’t matter where. I’d just eat. I guess you could say I was pretty much a carp. I’d literally eat anything.
But, during my weight-loss journey I learned the planning meals was crucial to success. This didn’t only include home cooked meals, but meals eaten out. There is a power in being prepared. Preparedness is one of the greatest allies you can have in improving your health.
2) Visit the restaurant’s website to plan your meal.
Many restaurants will list their full menu online including their nutritional facts. This is a great ally to have. Mainly because it almost shames into picking the healthiest thing on the menu. It’s amazing what you will learn from the nutritional facts.
For example you’d be surprised what perceived healthy meals at Chili’s contain. The Bancon Chicken Ranch Quesadilla for instance has over 1700 calories and 134 grams of fat. 134 GRAMS!!! Clog up my arteries and put the funeral home on speed dial. How does that not kill you?
I won’t even start talking about the burgers … I’ll just let you discover that one on your own.
Simply put, the more knowledge you have of what’s in your food the better decision you can make.
3) Plan your previous meals accordingly.
If you are planning on eating out, it should be assumed that you are probably going to eat a bit more than you normally would at home. Not always, but odds are you will.
Knowing what you are going to eat at the restaurant will allow you to plan the rest of your meals for that day. Just plan accordingly. I know it sounds cliche, but make sure to also drink plenty of water throughout the day and don’t skip meals so you are going into your meal too hungry. That’s when you tend to overeat.
Well, that when I overeat by ordering dessert. Namely, a skillet cookie with ice cream.
4) Don’t feel like you CAN’T order the dish your own way.
As a waiter there is nothing worst than a rude and picky customer. Heck, even rude or picky are just annoying. That’s why I hate being “THAT GUY.” Now, while I am not a rude diner, I do worry sometimes about being annoyingly picky. But, on the other hand I can’t afford not to be picky.
But, at the same time I feel like if you are paying $10-12 for a meal then you are entitled to a little bit of pickiness in how your dish is made. Even if you ask to hold the butter, leave out a sauce, swap a creamy sauce or a tomato base sauce, etc.
Plus, if I feel like I am TOO picky, I’ll tip a little bit more. And, what waiter doesn’t like a bigger tip? Don’t feel like you are imposing with your dietary needs. Because these are your goals and no one else’s.
5) Take your time to enjoy the company and your meal.
Don’t rush your meal. When you go out to eat you are usually going to out to be with people. Whether that’s with your significant other, a friend, family or a group. Make sure you focus on them. Take your time and enjoy your meal. The meal is secondary to the point of the meal. Never forget that.
Eating out is not that complicated. It can be done on a diet, wherever you go. With a little planning and creativity you can still keep your goals and fitness on track. But, just remember this works if you only do this once and a while. If you’re doing this every day … then … you’re on your own.
What are some ways you prepare to eat out? Do you follow a similar pattern? Do you care? What works best for you? Please share your own comments below.