Saturday night, date night, girls night or guys night out, business meetings...either way we know we're in for a good night with our loved ones and friends, and colleagues. If you're anything like me, social gatherings often occur around food and drinks. Food brings people together, and everyone has to eat after all!
Getting out of your house and paying for someone else to cook your dinner is a total treat, but can be a point of stress for many who are trying to maintain a healthy body composition. The struggle is often found when the menu isn't exactly "healthy" or "in line with your goals." All week long you go to the gym, you do your work outs, you make healthy meals at home and then B-A-M-! After enjoying one single meal you've lost all the traction and head way you've been working on gaining ALL week long! UGH.
While we all deserve cheat meals once in a while, how do we engage in meals out that aren't planned cheat meals, and do so without deviating from our goals?
The answers are more simple than you probably realize...
1. Have a PLAN!
Know where you are going and what the restaurant offers. Practically every restaurant can be found online now, use technology to your benefit! Before your meal out, take a minute to look up the menu options. Decide what you want, often choosing a big salad is a great way to go, you usually get a huge portion, including toppings you may normally not enjoy at home. The only sticky part of ordering a salad though is the dressing that comes with it! You can ask to have your dressing on the side, or ask them to go light on the cheese, etc. Customize it to ensure you won't overload in calories by ordering a salad!
2. CUT it in HALF!
When your meal comes, ask for a take home box immediately! Cut your meal portion in half, putting half of the meal into your box to take home to enjoy tomorrow for lunch. This way you always ensure you won't overeat just because it's in front of you. Ta-da! P.S. Don't forget the box on the table when you leave, you'll kick yourself in the butt if you do!
Always ask for water, even asking for a little lemon to add flavor to your water is a great way of getting your body ready to eat! Lemon is great for your metabolism and drinking water before your meal helps fill you up a little bit more, again helping you to avoid eating too much or ordering that extra appetizer that you really don't need. Also, go easy on the sugary sodas or alcoholic beverages, this is a sure way to "drink" your extra calories if you're not setting yourself a limit and sticking with it (if your goal is to lose weight, you shouldn't drink your calories, period!). In general, only order that drink when it's a special occasion...trying to get away from every single dining out experience will not only lower the tab at the end of the night, but will keep you on track for reaching your goals!
4. SLOW down!
Eat to enjoy, eat to nourish, and actually take time to chew your food. It's so easy to just shove the food in and move on to the next thing. Try slowing down, really recognizing the taste and flavors of your food. Sit back away from your plate several times, listen to your body, are you full? Remember to stop when you feel about 80% full, not when you're so stuffed you'll need to be rolled out of the restaurant. Remember, you may be there to eat together...but you're also there to be with other people. Engage, listen and be present.
5. PASS on dessert.
If dessert comes up at the end of the meal, just say no thank you! There's a time and place for a yummy cheat treat, but you do not need a dessert every single time you go out. Sorry to be the mean one, but it's true! If you truly crave a sweet end to your dining experience, grab a mint on your way out or have one waiting for you in the car. Again, this should be a good way to help hold yourself accountable. If the people you're with really want a dessert and you'll be the Debbie-Downer if you don't participate, take your fork and enjoy one or two bites ("One or two bites is just about right") to the fullest! Often times your friends will feel less guilty if others participate in their indulgences as well. You can be a good friend by not having any sweets (to show them it can be done and be encouraging to them too!) or you can be a good friend and enjoy one bite with them (and save the rest for later). Either way, REMEMBER why you are abstaining...because you've got a goal to be a better version of yourself, and that goal doesn't include having a 1000 calorie piece of cake after every meal out!
6. TELL someone!
-The best way to be successful while eating out is to be accountable to somebody. As much as I don't always like it, I tell my hubby to remind me while we are at dinner to order something healthy. I want him to help hold me to my goals. I do this because I know myself, and in the moment I'll say "Heck with it! Bring on the fries!" In all seriousness, I know my weaknesses. The sooner you can acknowledge your weak spots and ask for help, the better off you'll be!
-One of our most favorite ways to have dinner is with our friends and family in our home! We love to invite people in our home, create, cook and make a meal together and sit down at the dining room table or out on our backyard and eat in. Not only can you save money, but then there is no hustle or bustle about getting to and from, no tip to leave and obviously no stress about what to order...or better yet, what not to order. You are in complete control! Not to mention, asking the guest to bring a side dish or salad is another good way to engage, include and ensure you're not doing all the work by yourself. And don't be shy about asking for "low dairy" or "something healthy" when you ask them to add to the menu for the evening.