Updated: Feb 12, 2019
We Know, We Know, We Eat Out... Let’s face it - it's really common to socialize around food. We like to go out to eat with family and friends, and much of the food we have access to when dining out is loaded with sugar and salt or heavily processed and over-portioned! But, it is possible to have the tools to make good decisions at restaurants and have success! So, how the heck do you stay on track while dining out? Easy!
Reserve Dining Out for Special Moments The more you dine at home, the more control you have over what you eat. It's that simple. If you can, reserve dining out for times when you are away from home, work-related events, or special occasions. If this becomes the norm, and you'll most often default to prepare your own food, you'll be more likely to be thoughtful about your dining out choices...that's a win.
Find the Right Restaurants When it is time to dine out, and, if you have a choice of restaurants, choose wisely. You know that just about everything at McDonalds, including the hamburger meat, contains high fructose corn syrup, right? So, fast food is not your best option. Look for restaurants that serve real, and fresh, food. Then consider the restaurant's primary offering...is it a steakhouse, a seafood place, a salad joint? Probably decent places to start. Or on the other side of the aisle...is it a pizza and pasta restaurant, a taco truck, or a late night diner? Choose a restaurant who's primary offerings include a good bit of healthy protein and veg.
Investigate the Menu If you can choose an establishment before going, check out their menu! Create a list of meals and adjustments to meals you can have there that you know you'll enjoy and modify to remove sugars and processed elements.
What to Do In The Moment Whether or not you know of a place in advance, know that much of the problematic junk is hidden in foods at seemingly healthy restaurants, too. Here are some steps to take to strip it out and have success!
Lead with Protein and Veggies - Almost any restaurant you go to is going to have some sort of protein (steak, chicken, or fish), salad, and veggies.
Forgo the Pre-Meal Noshes - You know the tortilla chips, bread plates, and appetizers tend to be heavily processed and full of bad additives and few great nutrients.
Ask About Sauces and Dressings - Sauces on main dishes and salad dressings are often loaded with sugar, excess salt, and processed vegetable oils. Ask what's in the sauces, if they are made there, and always ask for them on the side so you can manage the portion. Even consider asking for another sauce or dressing (olive oil and vinegar, perhaps) in their place!
What's this Cooked In? - Many restaurants cook their proteins and veggies with terrible processed oils and add sugar, flour, and other extra unfavorable components. Ask if they can grill, bake, or sauté your food in olive or coconut oil and season with salt, pepper, herbs and spices!
Check Out All the Sides - Get creative...look across the entire menu for alternative healthy veggie sides instead of pastas, fried items and other dense, sugary, problematic sides that might come with the protein you choose.
Ultimately, it may take a little time customizing and being specific with your wait staff, but with all of the dietary restrictions people have nowadays, they’re used to it. And quite frankly, you’re a paying customer so you deserve to get exactly what you want! It’s all about exploring the menu to see what they already have and customizing it so that it works for YOU! Your diet and nutrition plan shouldn’t restrict you from being out with friends and enjoying a meal out on the town. So make plans to get out of the house when you’re itching for an outing and make it work for you!