image credit: Christina from paperbagblog
This is one of those questions that as a health coach I get asked all the time. How can I eat out and still lose weight or stick to my healthy living goals? It can be hard, especially when you have a row of several social occasions one after another. It’s easy to let that really knock you off your game, but fear not, here are a few of my top tips for sticking to your healthy living goals when eating out!
It is generally the answer to everything! I tend to say to clients that if they are eating out once a month just don’t sweat it. Choose something you really want, enjoy it and move on. Remember that it’s what you do consistently, not on occasion that counts. If the eating out is happening more often than this, that’s when it can pay to have a strategy…
Have a strategy
If you are eating out quite often and chose to just eat what you wanted, it could have an impact on your general wellbeing and your weight. Instead, try having a strategy. Check out menus online before you dine to see what might be the best option. Stick to one or two courses instead of three or more. If you have some influence over where you go, see if you can take everyone to a place that has the best healthy options. Don’t go overboard on the alcohol. Think ‘sensible’ rather than restricted or going overboard at either extreme.
Know your best healthy options
If you do need to have a strategy, it’s useful to know what the healthiest options are for you. Remember this is just if you are eating out a lot, if it’s only every once in a while damn well enjoy it! I tend to be more aware of sweet sugary sauces than fatty ones, so I’ll avoid things like sweet and sour sauce, but enjoy curries made with cream and coconut milk. It can also be helpful to watch the carbohydrate portion of the meal which is usually pretty big, so that might mean eating less rice, not ordering additional chips with your burger in a bun and keeping an eye on the size of pasta dishes. If you are having more than one course, have soup or a salad to start rather than something bready.
Many times I’ve looked at a menu online, picked put a healthy option and then when I’ve been sat in the restaurant I’ve ordered something completely different and far less healthy. Sometimes it’s due to habit, peer pressure from the other diners or the fact that I just wanted to indulge! This one might sound a bit loopy but try visualising yourself ordering that healthy choice, asking for your non alcoholic drink at the bar, saying ‘no thank you I’m full’ when you are full etc. The more you do something the easier it becomes and visualisation is like practice without physically doing it so give it a try!
Eat light, but don’t restrict
If you know you are going out for a big slap up meal, it makes sense to eat a little lighter before and after it. This is not meant to mean restriction, all that will do is make you eat loads more once you go out! Instead just make healthy choices with lots of fresh veggies and don’t skip meals. Salads and green smoothies generally work well for me the day before and after a big meal out.
Take some pro-biotics and digestive enzymes
If you find that you feel uncomfortably bloated after a meal, try taking some digestive enzymes to help process that food. Peppermint tea can also help. If you get a dodgy tummy the following day give some pro-biotics a try.
Don’t beat yourself up or feel guilty
Food guilt is a pointless emotion and waste of your emotional energy. You can’t undo what you’ve done or eaten (let’s never ever go down that road) so leave it in the past. Do try and learn from it by thinking about why you may have made less than stellar choices, but after taking note of that move on. Don’t restrict, just eat healthy nourishing food. Remember not to get sucked into a diet mentality and feel like you’ve f**ked up. Don’t make a situation worse by allowing it to continue. Just leave it in the past, remember it’s what you do consistently that counts and get yourself back into healthy habits. A bit of exercise might help, even if its just a walk!
How do you manage eating out? What are your favourite healthier options? What do you always treat yourself to?
All sensible advice Laura. I used to hate leaving food on my plate and thought I was “wasting” food but really that food’s not doing any good if it’s just making you overstuffed!
Absolutely! I try and remind myself that I don’t even enjoy the food when I’m stuffed so what’s the point!
You know where food isn’t doing any good to anyone? In the garbage. If you want to stay fit don’t order things you don’t need to eat. And if you absolutely can’t finish a meal at a restaurant, take it home with you. Half of all food Westerners purchase gets thrown out, and adding to that appalling figure shouldn’t be pawned off as a positive choice.
Fair enough, and a good point. Taking food home with you from restaurants isn’t a common practice here in the UK but is increasing. I would say that ordering things you don’t need to eat is an over simplistic way of addressing what can be a complex issue for some people tackling weight problems. If you do read any other posts on this blog, you will see that I am very much anti food waste and promote meal planning to reduce food waste.
Yesterday was probably the first day ever in 47 years that I did not finish my meal at a restaurant. I realized I didn’t really enjoy what I ordered and my stomach was starting to feel questionable anyway. I felt bad for wasting money but at the same time I felt like I was proactive. Having digestive issues and really paying attention to how each food makes me feel has opened my eyes a lot.
That’s something I go on at people about all the time – just listening to your body can be so revolutionary!
Great advice Laura – I agree if it is a treat eat what you fancy but if eating out is a regular thing, it is great to have a strategy in place!
Thanks Lauren :-)
It’s tough when it comes to eating out because you want to enjoy something and not worry about the calories. But restaurant meals can be so calorific sometimes it’s not worth it! If I know I’m going to have a bit of a blow-out meal at a restaurant the days leading up I might eat slightly more healthy in that I won’t have my added extra treats and then the next day I will continue to make healthy choices. It’s just about balancing it I think. If I want to make a more healthy choice at the restaurant though I might sub chips for veg or have a salad if I know I really want a pudding. But usually I will just have what I want and balance it later.
I think it’s only worth it if the food is really really good! Like the idea of balancing it out later and choosing veg over chips when you also want to have an dessert, makes a lot of sense!
I have been trying out digestive enzymes recently and they worked a treat when on holiday and eating my fair share of steaks! Great advice about balance, in general pick places that are ‘kezia friendly’ (as my husband calls it) but do enjoy a good treat every now and then. It think it helps to be very unbritish and fussy about the food your order too – i learnt this from following GAPS diet where i was very particular about what i ate but i realised you can do it in a positive and kind way, without the waiting staff hating you!
You are so right, I think how you approach that with waiting staff can make a big difference with how helpful they are!
I don’t eat out very much so when I do I don’t really think about calorie content I usually just go for whatever I like but that always includes some form of salad and veg : )
Sounds like a good approach to me!
I don’t tend to eat out that much, so I generally just enjoy it. But I think I tend to prefer healthier things anyway- I do like a pizza but after a slice or two I get a bit bored of it, so generally I would order a salad. And it annoys me ordering pasta in a restaurant as I think it is so expensive and often no nicer than you could make at home! If I go out with Andy we would share a starter, we would never have one each, so I think sharing something is a good way to go if you want to try something but not eat all of it.
That’s another good point about eating out, sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it when I can make something better at home! It’s worth having something special that you’ll really like if it’s a one off. Sharing is such a good idea too!
Some of this was learning how to know when I was full and stopping! Plus, I often share a meal with my sweet hubby!! I try not to order a drink or dessert. Even so, eating out is difficult. When you are going out and paying for a meal there is a tendency to think “I deserve something special” but I know that when I overeat, I pay for it!! Great tips!