As a kiddo, eating out was a HUGE treat! Once or twice a year, my folks would pile at least 8 of us girls all in to our big white van, and we’d hit up a place like the Golden Coral or a local Mexican restaurant and eat until we were STUFFED.
I still remember filling my pockets with gummy bears from the ice cream bar at the Golden Coral, so I could still enjoy them later! LOL
Because it was such a TREAT and so rare to go out… as an adult, I absolutely LOVE eating out at a nice restaurant.
I LOVE being served. I LOVE having a variety of yummy choices. I LOVE the entire experience. Add in the unlimited drinks and chips or bread, and I’m in restaurant heaven.
What I’ve found over the last couple of years, is that these little trips to my fav Mexican or Italian restaurants were REALLY kicking me in the behind when it came to staying on track with my health and fitness goals.
Every trip out became a “special occasion,” and in a matter of an hour, I would forget all of my goals, and I’d have consumed well over a thousand calories in chips or bread, soda and some massive pasta dish or burrito. Afterwards, I’d find myself going home feeling bloated and mad at myself the next day.
Over the past two years, all of this has changed. I’m still not perfect, but I’ve learned a LOT. Small changes over a long period of time have helped me stay more and more on track with my long-term goals.
In the past two years, I’ve learned:
-> How to navigate a restaurant menu.
-> When to say YAY and when to say NAY.
-> When to allow myself a little indulgence without going overboard.
So that being said… here are some tips I’ve put together to help you navigate a restaurant menu and improve your dining out experience.
Plan where you will be eating. Do some research. Know which restaurants you can go to that will have food you can order that will be aligned with your health, fitness and clean eating goals.
Go for the water. Thirsty? A GREAT goto is water with lemon. To spice it up, ask your server what kind of fresh fruit they have on hand, and add some fruit to your drink.
If you’re craving soda, try club soda or seltzer water with lemon. It will help curb that fizzy craving. A couple of other drink options would be: black coffee or tea, or some unsweetened ice tea.
If you’ve reached that point where you REALLY want an adult drink, it’s usually best to go with a glass of white or red wine. If you’re not a wine lover, try something like a vodka & seltzer with lemon or lime.
WARNING: Set a limit, because once we have a drink, we often want one more. We’ll start munching on those chips or that bread, and it goes downhill from there.
Say NO to the free food! I swear, it’s the chips at the Mexican restaurants and the bread at the Italian restaurants and steak houses that do me in EVERY time. Talk about PRIME comfort foods!!!
If it’s not there, you’ll skip that temptation and won’t be mindlessly snacking while enjoying a good conversation.
Skip the fried & breaded food. Ask your server how the food is prepared. If it’s fried, breaded, creamed, etc… move on to another menu item. Most restaurants will have a list of “healthier options” that you can take a look at.
Don’t be afraid to ask for modifications. Most restaurants are happy to prepare your food how you would like. So if you order a salad, and it has breaded chicken… don’t be shy. Ask the server to exchange the breaded chicken for some healthy grilled chicken breast.
Watch the portions! Most restaurants give us so much more than our body actually needs. A good rule of thumb is to ask for a take out box when your meal arrives. Put close to half of your meal in the take out box, and then enjoy the rest.
SKIP DESSERT! Yeah… I know! It’s so nice to cherish these moments out… to sink our teeth into some cheesecake and sip on a hot cup of coffee after a yummy meal.
BUT… do you know what this “small” indulgence can cost us? 500-1,000 calories or MORE! You’ll feel better if you say no and save that dessert for a special occasion.
ULTIMATELY… The goal here is NOT to feel deprived, but to feel good about our choices, and to really think about what we’re eating. This way, we can avoid falling into the mindless eating trap that we all get caught up in from time to time and really enjoy our time out.
As a result, instead of coming home and beating ourselves up, we can come home feeling good about the time we spent out with family, friends, girls night, on a date or whatever!
I’ll be honest… it takes awhile to form these new habits, but over time, you’ll notice that the small changes add up to bigger changes. You’ll find that you have a lot more self-control when eating out, and you’ll come home feeling GREAT about your choices.
Have some extra tips you can add to this list to help your fellow ladies out or your own story to inspire us with? Share in the comments!