Restaurants and diets. Two things that don’t seem like they go together. But, studies show that almost 30 percent of people in our country are on diets and that people eat out at least four or five times a week so there must be a way to do both.
Dieting is hard enough in itself but avoiding restaurants completely is not only almost impossible but can be isolating and depressing since meals are one of the most popular ways we connect with our friends and family.
We’re here to provide you with some tips on how you can do both. You just have to get a little creative and use some self control (yes, we know, that’s the hard part!)
This is often the number one component of any diet. It’s no secret that Americans are known for eating larger portion sizes than people in other countries. Because of that, restaurants are pressured into serving those large portion sizes or people don’t feel like they’re getting enough food.
A few ways to manage your portion size when eating out include:
- Share an entree with someone else.
- Order off the kids menu.
- Instead of an entree, order one or two side items.
- Turn an appetizer into a meal.
- Order and ask them to put half of your meal into a to go box before bringing it out.
Avoid the tempting pre-meal snack items.
This one gets almost all of us. When you get to a restaurant, you’re likely hungry so why not take advantage of the chips and salsa or bread while you’re waiting for your meal. We’d suggest either setting a hard limit on what you’ll allow yourself to have OR if the person or people you’re with agree, get rid of the temptation all together and have the chips, bread or whatever it is removed from the table.
Research the menu.
If you have time, research the menu ahead of time to see if they have a healthy section. Also be sure to avoid key terms like “pan-fried,” “crispy,” “dipped,” “breaded” “cream” or “alfredo” sauce. You should focus on items that have high protein and fiber and avoid carbs, as much as you can.
If there’s not a healthy section on the menu, ask the wait staff for suggestions. You will definitely not be the first person who’s asked them.
Watch what you drink.
If you’re enjoying a cocktail during your meal, try avoiding margaritas, piña coladas and other mixed drinks. Most include sugary add-ins that add tons of calories and processed sugars and flavors. Instead, order a glass of wine, a light beer, vodka and tonic or a simple martini.
Also, remember to drink a lot of water, both before and during your meal as it can help you feel fuller while you’re eating.
As Americans, we also tend to always be in a hurry. That includes when we eat, whether at home or at a restaurant. The problem with that is that we’re not giving our brain and stomach enough time to catch up with each other. It takes about twenty minutes from the start of a meal for the brain to send out signals of being full. Just imagine all those extra calories you’re consuming because your body didn’t know yet that it was full.
So, don’t let that diet keep you from eating out and enjoying time with friends and family. Next time you get an invite to eat out and you’re on a diet, don’t immediately say no. Accept and try these tips. The more you use them, the more of a habit they’ll become.