Hurray for the weekend! I don’t know about you but one of the things I look forward to most of all on the weekends is taking a bit of a break from the monotony of cooking. For many years I would nail my workouts and eat pretty clean during the week but when the weekend arrived, it was a free-for-all. Bloody Mary and mimosa-filled brunches, tailgates, cocktails, birthdays, weddings, bar-food, Sunday football snacks…all of these social situations wound up putting me right back to square one every Monday. And then I’d do it all over again the next week. It’s really no fun to work your tail off and not see results from it! Dining out presents a host of temptations and with one out of every five meals eaten outside the home, without some ground rules and some smart planning, you can do some serious damage to your health and fitness goals. Often when we are trying to eat clean we think we can’t eat out but with a little know-how and strategy, you can successfully navigate the social food world. Whether you are trying to tackle the Monday morning breakfast meeting, a celebratory lunch or a date-night dinner out, these tips will help with all of these situations.
- Do your research and check the menu before leaving home. Nowadays you can find restaurant menus online. Plan ahead and see what your options are. It’s easy to make a hasty decision once you are out with everyone and submitting to the peer pressure of having what everyone else is having. Making a split decision can lead to bad decisions. Have a plan going into it and when you sit down you can focus on what you are really there for, good company and fun.
- Drink water throughout your meal. You get a much more immediate sense of how full you are after a glass of water.
- Develop an “I don’t need to clear my plate” mindset. We often feel guilty for spending money on a meal and not getting the “best bang for your buck” but you are not helping anyone by clearing your plate, most of all, YOU.
- Always start with greens. Just fill up on the healthier stuff first. Dressing on the side. Makes sense, right?!
- Pass on the bread. This isn’t a new one but one we tend to forget. Quite often restaurants now ask if you would like the bread basket. Just say no and if it never creeps onto your table, all the better.
- It’s all in the prep. The food that is. Look for: baked, grilled, dry-sauteed, broiled, au jus, roasted, poached or steamed. Avoid: breaded, au gratin, casserole, carbonara, creamy, sautéed, tempura, gravy, fried or bisque. Look at your menu as a reference guide, be nice to your server and ask for things the way you want them. I can guarantee in this day and age with so many food intolerances and allergies, what you are asking for has been ordered before.
- Portions, portions, portions. Restaurant serving sizes are often enough for two people. Split an entree with someone or decide to save half for later.
- Adult beverages OR dessert. Pick your poison. You don’t need both. What do you want more today? If you out celebrating and want to have your cake and eat it too then just decide on taking 1-2 bites. Those are the bites that will leave a lasting impression. The only thing you will walk away with if you eat the whole thing is the feeling of being stuffed and guilty. Save those desserts for the truly special occasions when you will really appreciate them.
- Remember your goals. You have worked hard to get where you are and focus on the 80/20 rule.
- Look at the big picture. If you know you have a BBQ or a date at the pizza joint later, perhaps a giant hoagie isn’t the best choice for lunch. Ideally your entire day should be in balance so if you are going treat yourself to a slice of pizza (not 3), have a salad with grilled chicken for lunch.
Living a life of clean eating doesn’t mean you can never go out again but it takes some effort to learn the tricks of the trade and eventually, all of these things will become habit for you!