Your survival guide for dining out (part 2)
In my last blog post, I outlined a way to lose weight faster : cutting down on dining out.
You’re probably thinking: Do you really expect me to give up my life to be on a diet? Absolutely not. You’ll notice I didn’t ask you to stop eating at restaurants altogether. That’s because Your Body Evolution is a realistic weight-loss plan designed with long-term sustainability in mind. Many diets fail because they don’t give specific or realistic instructions on how to eat out. Sometimes you simply can’t get home to prepare a meal or, for whatever reason, haven’t packed a healthy meal, so a restaurant is the only option. Besides, dining out is a fun way to try new foods, socialize with friends, family and business colleagues. While cooking for yourself at home is the best policy, the odd meal out is perfectly acceptable—but only once in a while, and as I said in that last post, only if you’re sure the restaurant offers suitable nutritional options or will cater to your needs with food modifications. If not, it’s time to pick another restaurant.
Instead, I encourage you to eat out, but with three caveats. First, you have to make an honest affirmation that goes like this: ‘I know why I’m overweight, I have no reason to expect my weight to be anything other than what it is. In the past, I didn’t know so I made mistakes and I programmed myself for weight gain. Now that I know, I will no longer make excuses.’ The second caveat is to agree that no matter what happens, you’ll never say ‘I had no choice but to eat (insert food here).’ There’s always a choice. The third caveat: If you’re unable to say no, then simply don’t go.
In part two of your Survival Guide for Dining Out, I want to keep the focus on how to eat when dining at restaurants. Remember that sometimes it’s the simplest tactics that can help you stay on track to achieve your weight-loss goals. While it’s easy to over-complicate dieting, it’s much harder to take a straightforward approach. With that in mind, here are 15 tactics for diet-friendly restaurant dining:
Each week, pull out your calendar and mark down the number of times you anticipate eating out, make a list of challenges you foresee and write down strategies to overcome each one.
If you are going to a restaurant to socialize, eat before or after, or order a healthy salad (dressing on the side, please!).
Never tell the people you’re meeting that you’re on a diet—that becomes an open invitation for sabotage. Instead, say you’re trying to lose weight because you’re on a nutrition kick with the goal of looking and feeling better. People are far more likely to support your diet goals if you’re attempting to shed pounds to benefit your health rather than to shrink your waistline.
Try to dine out with people who support your weight-loss goals, respect your privacy and personal choices—and try to solicit their support to achieve your diet objectives.
As mentioned in my last post, call ahead to the restaurant where you’ll be dining and inform the manager that you have special dietary requirements (fibbing and saying it’s due to an allergy is perfectly acceptable). Now take it a step further. Ask for the name of a manager on duty or a waiter who you should contact when you arrive. Once there, discuss your needs and remind them that you’d like your dietary accommodations to remain private.
When dining out, if you even suspect your food isn’t prepared in a way that suits your dietary requirements, send it back. Don’t start picking food out in the hope that you can make it a diet-friendly meal.
Study the whole menu before you arrive at a restaurant and determine which sides are available with each meal. Why? Side dishes are often the most fat- and calorie-laden part of any restaurant meal. Then, take control of your meal and be assertive. If that healthy quinoa side dish only comes with chicken and you’re ordering fish with creamy mashed potatoes, ask them to switch the sides. Any good restaurant will accommodate a change as simple as this.
Don’t be seduced by the daily specials—you should have already determined what you’re going to eat before you arrive at a restaurant.
If you’re a visual person and can’t resist ordering tempting food as it passes by your table, turn your chair and face away from the kitchen.
Restaurants tend to give you far more food than you would ever prepare for yourself at home. Make meal sharing a habit whenever possible, and request an extra plate at the beginning of the meal. When your plate arrives, put the excess food onto the second plate and take it home or share with your guests.
Order salads at a restaurant, but bring your own dressing. Virtually every eatery-made salad dressing is laden with fat, sugar and wasted calories. One more thing about dressing: dress your salad, don’t drown it. Dipping lettuce in dressing is a useful tactic to avoid using too much. The same goes for dipping other foods in sauces.
The order in which you eat food is also very important. It’s a good strategy to always start your meal with a salad. The little bit of allowed fat in the dressing will trigger hunger hormones that make you full faster.
Now it’s time for your main plate. Start with the vegetables (green, leafy ones if possible), and remember the portion should be roughly the size of your outstretched hand. The reason? Vegetables provide density and will fill you before you make it to those tempting and fattening starches. Then eat your proteins, again keeping portions to about the size and depth of their palm. Then finish with starches, which should be consumed last and portions should never exceed the approximate size of a tennis ball. Of course, remember to move excess food onto your second plate before you start eating.
When ordering proteins, your best options are grilled fish or chicken. Red meat is OK on occasion, but only cooked on the grill and without butter or marinades.
Never sit longer than one hour. Insulin gets released by our bodies in two peaks, and the second one is about an hour after eating your first bite. That’s where you’ll be in the danger zone for getting your second wind and maybe eating more or ordering dessert. Have a craving for something sweet? Suck on a sugar- and calorie-free mint instead.
In my final installment of Your Survival Guide for Dining Out, I’ll provide specifics on what to order when at a restaurant. Until then, stay well and keep enjoying your body evolution.
Dr. Jeffrey Brown, Medical Director
Your Body Evolution
Weight Loss Through Wellness