Eating Out and Staying In Control
Once you’ve made the decision to eat clean, dining out can be a minefield, and can often stir up some anxiety. In attempt to help you from freaking out when you’re eating out, I’ve outlined some simple tips below. Try it at your next business lunch, family celebration or date night.
Ready? Let’s Order.
Eating Out: Navigating Restaurant Emotions
First, accept that you just might be considered “that person.” You know, that one who asks all the questions about the menu, make some substitutions and still might have to send something back.
Yup, that might be you.
If you’ve made a commitment to make smarter choices about what you’re eating, you need to do some due diligence. So, instead of sitting back and feeling self-conscious about your new lifestyle, own that shit.
Hopefully you’ve already had the conversation with those you’re dining with, but if you haven’t, let them ask you some questions and answer in a positive light (saying things like “I choose to have xyz” rather than, “I can’t have xyz”).
Also, instead of judging what they choose to order, lead by example.
So, before you start listing off your questions and substitutions, let your server know that you have a few special requests but you’re willing to wait patiently for the changes and that you really appreciate their help. The more they feel your appreciation, the more they’ll show you the same courtesy.
Do Your Research Before You Go
If you know where you’re going ahead of time, do your homework about the menu. Browse through their online menu and take note of any table-temptations (like warm bread or chips and salsa) so you can be mentally prepared. These temptations can also be avoided by my eating something little before you go so you’re not hangry while you’re waiting for your food.
If you have more time, call the restaurant and ask about the oils they use for cooking. This can help you decide which meals have the red light. If you’re on a roll and have their attention, why not ask about how their ingredients are sourced. Do they use a local farmer or a distributor? What about their meats – are they organic or conventionally farmed? If you’re headed to a restaurant that features local or organic, they’re going to be more than happy to share that information with you.
Once you pick a few items on the menu that look promising, take a look at their nutritional value. My Fitness Pal has a decent database to help you navigate eating out. You can either choose by GPS location or search the restaurant name.
Pick Your Protein First
When you find a grass-fed burger or organic, free-range chicken, it’s time to celebrate and bookmark that restaurant as a favorite. But, when you’re eating out, you’re going to find that most restaurants use conventionally-sourced (factory-farmed) meat. In that case, use this as a guide to help you navigate your choices.
- Your best bet is to choose steamed or grilled fish or lean cuts of red meat. Aim for as lean as possible to avoid fat-stored toxins consumed by factory-farmed animals.
- Your next best choice is going to be grilled chicken without the skin or a no-bun-burger or even eggs (depending on the oil used). Often, you’ll have no choice but to be at the mercy of vegetable oils. Even high-end restaurants cook with it. Learn to navigate smarter options that require no oil (or less of it), and you’ll set yourself up for success.
- Finally, the avoid at all costs protein choice when eating out: factory-farmed pork in any form (this includes bacon, sausage, hot dogs), anything skin-on, fried or swimming in sauce.
Don’t be embarrassed to take an extra few minutes to read over the menu, if you didn’t have a chance to do it beforehand. Ask questions about the cooking methods before you choose your meal.
- When possible choose grilled or steamed foods. These will be your safest choice.
- Sauteed dishes are cooked in fat (and most restaurants cook their vegetables this way). Ask for them to be steamed and served undressed.
- Roasted might sound like a good choice, they’re just cooked in an oven, right? Wrong. These dishes are usually blasted with fat (not the good kind) to keep them from drying out.
- Fried. No chance. Moving on….
Focus on What You CAN Control (not what you can’t)
Eating out doesn’t have to be stressful, but it takes a little more work.
Progress, not perfection. That’s our mantra right now.
Do what you can to make the smartest choice and keep your meal compliant. And, even if you can’t control the menu, you can control your portions. Use your hand a guide to help you from going overboard.
Then, it’s time to enjoy your company. Remember to also show your appreciation with a tip for your server, too.
If you have any questions about your individual needs, set up a free 15-minute consultation to learn more about our one-on-one nutrition health coaching with Angela.