You can of course make sure that your homemade meals are full of healthy fats, green veggies, and minimal sugar, but when going out, this can be a completely different story. You may taste delicious food and try an inventive cocktail or two.
But before you know it, you can throw your diet into a tailspin. The truth is you can go out to eat with your friends and maintain your diet without having to go straight for the salads on the menu. Eating out is both fun and sociable.
Dieting doesn’t have to mean skimping on romantic evenings out or losing time with family and friends. Instead of staying at home and missing out on a delicious restaurant meal, arm yourself with knowledge so you can be social and eat smart.
Don’t surrender your social life in an effort to eat clean. Instead, learn how to navigate restaurant menus and stay on your diet while eating out like a pro.
Follow these tips to stick to your diet when going out and stay on track!
#1 Opt For Healthy Sides When Going Out
If you’re really craving a big, juicy burger for dinner, it ‘s easy to simply get fries instead of looking at the healthier options that might accompany it. One single hamburger can be easy to fit into your diet, but only if you make smart choices for the rest of your meal.
If you’re going for an indulgent dish, then ask for a side of fresh fruit, steamed veggies, or a salad. Most restaurants have heart-healthy sides you can substitute for the fries, which will save you hundreds of calories. And just say no to a milkshake as your beverage.
If you’re hungry when you arrive at a restaurant, you may end up eating too much. One way to prevent this is to eat a healthy snack before you get there.
Cutting out soda, sweet tea, and alcohol is one of the simplest strategies to reduce overall calories when dieting. If you follow this tip at home, simply carry it with you to any restaurant meal. Choose calorie-free options such as water (bonus: this one is usually free!) or a diet beverage.
Drinking alcohol can add a significant number of calories to your meal. The number of calories in an alcoholic drink varies depending on the strength of the alcohol and the size of the drink. If you want to enjoy a drink, you can cut back on the extra calories by ordering smaller measures.
If you’re making mixed drinks with spirits such as gin, vodka, or whiskey, try mixing the spirit with a diet drink instead of a sugar-sweetened drink or fruit juice.
The key is to go for something you know to be low in calories. Think liquor and soda water with freshly squeezed lime juice instead of that sugar-loaded margarita. Or go for a glass of red wine. Yes, one glass.
#3 Never Choose Fried When Going Out
That fried chicken sandwich all of your friends are ordering may sound delicious, but you’ll be feeling its effects long after you’ve finished eating. Fried foods take longer to move through your digestive system, making you feel extra tired and sluggish after you’ve eaten.
If you plan to work out the next day, you might feel like your endurance is suffering. Instead of weighing yourself down, ask which options can be grilled or baked instead. Studies show that people are more likely to overeat when they’re served bigger portions.
If you are going to a restaurant where you know the portions are huge, try ordering two appetizers instead of the main course. This can help you fill up without going overboard with the calories.
#4 Choose The Right Restaurant
If you get to choose the restaurant, do you research beforehand? Take a look at the menu online to see what kind of food the restaurant serves. Pick fresh cuisine that your guests will enjoy and you can feel good about eating.
You might get more food for your money, but you’re also likely to go overboard. If you’re not familiar with the menu, read it before you get to the restaurant. You’re more likely to make unhealthy choices when hungry or distracted.
Chewing your food thoroughly and eating slower could help you eat less. It can also make you feel full more quickly. When you’re eating, try counting a minimum number of chews per mouthful to stop yourself from eating too quickly.
Putting your utensils down between mouthfuls is also a good way to slow down and give your satiety signals some time to kick in. The sight and smell of food can make sticking to a plan more difficult, especially if you are hungry.
Choosing your food before you arrive makes it easier to avoid snap decisions you might regret later.
#5 Try Eating Your Meal Mindfully
Mindful eating means making conscious choices about what you consume and giving your full attention to the eating process. Take the time to savor the aromas and flavors of your meal, as well as thoughts and feelings that arise while you eat.
Mindful eating has been linked with healthier food choices in restaurants. It can also help improve your self-control and prevent you from overeating. Teach yourself the difference between hunger and craving or the desire to eat.
Ultimately, you want to just label what you’re feeling (hunger, craving, tiredness, boredom, or negative emotion) and tolerate it without eating. In the short-run, have a list of powerful distractions to turn your attention away from food.
#6 Order Your Meal Before Everyone Else
Other people can influence our decisions without us really noticing. In social situations, people tend to mimic each other subconsciously, and dining out is no exception. People’s menu choices and eating behaviors can be highly influenced by the choices of other people at the table.
If you’re eating with a group that is likely to order something that doesn’t fit into your healthy eating plan, make sure you order first. Too often, people are hesitant to speak up about their preferences when ordering at restaurants.
Never feel obligated to accept a meal other than what you originally planned. While you might have to ask for off-menu replacements, you shouldn’t settle for a meal that completely deviates from the one you planned.
#7 Avoid Buffets When Going Out
People are notoriously bad at estimating portion sizes. So when you are faced with an unlimited supply of food at a buffet, eating the right amount can be challenging. If you’re stuck with a buffet as your only choice, using a smaller plate might help you eat less.
Another effective trick is to use a normal-sized plate and fill half of it with salad or vegetables. From supersized and extra fries to all-you-can-eat extravaganzas, restaurants are quickly becoming patrons’ favorite places, not only because of the dishes they serve but because of the size of those dishes.
Many people see it simply as “the bigger, the better.” Sure, this nets you more bang for your buck, but if you’re like many people and feel the urge to clean your plate(s), you’re likely to hit your macros for the next three days all in one meal.
If you find yourself at a restaurant with oversized portions, request that a to-go box be brought out with your meal. This way, once your food arrives at the table, you can put away a portion for your next meal or two and focus on enjoying the amount at hand.
In A Nutshell
There will be times when you want to eat your favorite food for pleasure and not worry about whether it is healthy or not. Being flexible about your diet and food choices is linked with better overall health and weight management.
It’s helpful to think about how a meal fits into your diet overall. If you are following healthy meal patterns most of the time, go ahead and treat yourself. An occasional indulgence can be good for the soul.
Tell yourself that every time matters. It’s not necessarily the calories (after all, cookie crumbs are not very fattening); it’s the HABIT. Every time you eat something you weren’t supposed to, it makes it more likely that the next time you’ll give in and the time after that and the time after that.
Every time you stick to your plan when you crave to eat something else, you strengthen your resistance muscle. Now, this makes it more likely that the next time you’ll resist, and the time after that and the time after that.
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