Can we really have it all? Can we workout, get enough sleep, excel at work without being overworked, communicate with all our friends, family, significant other in a kind way, and most importantly: can we eat out and be healthy?
I truly believe that we can have it all. However, having it all involves changing our perspective on what that really means. Can we eat out while ordering anything off the menu and still reach our fitness goals? The answer is no. I'm sure you had a hunch already! The combination of massive portions mixed with excess salt, sugar, and fat leads you anywhere but healthy.
Below are tips on how to order healthy without being miserable and enjoy yourself!
1. Plan ahead
Meal prep or eating out, you should always plan ahead. Look up the menu before going even if you've been there before. Many restaurants change their menu seasonally. Know what you are going to order before you arrive. Sure, this takes some of the fun out of it. Going prepared will have you feeling better about what you are ordering and not leave you making a decision you could regret. Then, have a backup plan for that. Whatever you wanted to order could be out!
Drink plenty of water throughout the day - which hopefully you do no matter what!
Never go to a restaurant starving. We have all been there. A crazy busy day with no time to eat leaves you ready to devour anything in sight. Please do not set yourself up like this!
2. Be annoying but polite
This is the important one! Don't be afraid to ask questions about how the meal is prepared, what ingredients are in it, and if they can do substitutions. Remember, you are a paying guest and there's no need to feel guilty about asking for what you want. After all, you're being so polite!
Then, politely lie. If you want them to hold the cheese, skip this or that, say you have a food allergy. When I customize my dish, I sometimes get asked if it's based on a preference or an allergy. I lie and say it's an allergy but sometimes I want to ask what the difference is. There IS a difference. The kitchen will make sure there is no cross contamination involved in your order. Basically they will go the extra measure to ensure what you get will be what you ordered. I've lost count of how many times I've ordered an acai bowl without honey only to watch them drench it in honey right before they serve it to me. They are a lot more careful now due to my honey "allergy."
Share your entree, a dessert, or everything! That doesn't mean order twice as much! An entree is usually much more food than you need and more than your stomach can hold. You can also share with yourself...by asking for half of what you order to be boxed up. Bring it for lunch the next day.
4. Skip the extras
So you are going out for dinner but end up eating from the bread basket, getting a drink, sharing an appetizer, and having a little dessert.
Pick your treat for the night. If you want to enjoy a cocktail, wine, dessert, or garlic bread, go for it. Just don't go for ALL of it. Choose one little extra for this time. You can choose something else next time.
5. Don't assume the calorie counts are accurate
Many chain restaurants have calorie counts for every meal and even a low calorie section on the menu. Aside from calorie counting being an ineffective way to control your weight, these numbers simply aren't accurate. The portion you receive and the preparation for the meal will be different every time. An extra tablespoon of oil and 1/4 cup of rice can add up to an extra 300 calories. Bottom line, focus on the ingredients in what you order versus the calorie estimate. Same rule that applies for eating at home too!
6. Veggie it up
You knew this one was coming! When it doubt, order as many vegetables as you can.
Of course, ask how they are prepared. Often they could be fried or come with tons of cheese on top. Order them steamed, lightly sauteed, or baked with a small amount of oil. Don't be afraid to ask for extra veggies, have them as a side, or a substitution for something else.
Beware of ordering a salad as a main course. The amount of "stuff" in that salad is unbelievable. Ask if a half portion is possible to order.
Ultimately, there will be things you cannot control when it comes to eating out and trying to keep it healthy. Do your best to work on the things you can control. The best advice I can give is to enjoy eating out but don't eat as if it's the last time you will. Eat slowly and have a small portion. Talk to the people or person you are with instead of mindlessly getting lost eating your food as fast as you can while scrolling on your phone.