Now that the Fit For Life Challenge is underway, we’re all making healthy changes to our diets and fitness habits to achieve our weight loss and fitness goals. But, this doesn’t mean that we’re eating egg white omelets and chicken and broccoli for the entire Challenge, right? We want to be realistic with the changes we make, so they’re sustainable long-term and become part of our everyday life. We don’t want to end up back to our old habits just a couple of months later.
For many of us (myself included), dining out can really be a struggle when it comes to eating right and keeping calories in check. As we all know, restaurants have huge, super size portions and so many high-calories (delicious) foods, so it can be tough to stick to your healthy habits if you’re not careful, BUT it’s not impossible either! That said, here are some tips and tricks that help me stay on track when I eat out.
The ones you’ve probably heard before:
- Drink lots of water to “fill” up your stomach
- Eat a snack before you dine out, so you’re not starving when you arrive
- Visualize half of your plate; eat half of the meal and take half home
- Eat normally during the day – no skipping meals – so you’re not famished at dinnertime
- Preview the menu online to pick a healthy option
- Order the dressing on the side/hold the mayo/no cheese to save calories
- Split an entree with your spouse/friend/family member to save calories
Some tips you might not have heard before:
2 out of 3 rule
This is totally my go-to “rule” when I go out to dinner. When you’re at a restaurant, you often have the choice of these three things: (1) an appetizer or piece of bread from the bread basket; (2) a cocktail; (3) dessert. All of these things are great and wonderful and all part of the dining out experience, but I choose to have only 2 of the 3 options (sometimes only 1 of the 3 options if I want two glasses of wine, for instance). I want to enjoy myself and splurge a little, but I don’t want to overdo it either, so I find picking 2 out of the 3 to enjoy really works for me. And, that way, I don’t feel deprived either!
Order an appetizer for your entree
A lot of restaurants serve massive portions for their entrees, so I often pick a smaller portion by ordering an appetizer instead of an entree for my meal. That way, I’m not tempted by eating everything on my plate when a huge entree is served to me. If the appetizers are on the small side, I’ll order two different ones or I’ll order an appetizer along with a side dish of veggies. I also like the variety in ordering multiples dishes because it really satisfies different cravings!
Check out the sides
Similarly to ordering an appetizer for my entree, I’ll sometimes order a side dish of veggies, which adds nutrients and volume to my meal without a lot of calories. If you order from the sides on the menu, be sure to ask how the vegetables are cooked. If they’re cooked in butter or oil or served in a creamy sauce, see if the kitchen will steam them instead, so you don’t get all of those extra calories.
Focus on protein
Another go-to tactic for me when I dine out is ordering an entree (or appetizer) that is high in protein. I personally love to order fish (tuna tartar, grilled salmon, sushi) because I rarely make it at home, but chicken, pork, turkey, beef, beans, eggs, etc. are all great choices for the basis of a protein-packed meal. When it comes to salads, be sure to order one with protein on it. You can even order extra protein if the salad seems a little skimpy on it, such as a salad with grilled chicken and shrimp. The protein will fill you up and keep you full. It also tends to be lower in calories than a carb-heavy meal, like pasta or pizza.
Pretend like you’re eating at home
Dining out is a lot of fun and it’s easy to go all out with your food choices, but when I want to keep things in check, I pretend like I am eating at home. Sure, I’m enjoying a fancy meal out at a restaurant, but I act like I am eating a healthy meal at home. For instance, if a huge portion is served to me, like a mound of mashed potatoes, I only eat the portion size that I would at home.
Take an intermission from eating
When I’m eating out and have a big meal sitting in front of me, I like to take a little break from eating halfway through to assess how I am feeling. Am I satisfied? Do I want more to eat? Have I had too much wine? Taking a little break from eating also reminds me of my goals and helps me focus on my true hunger, so I can keep my calories and choices in check.