It can sometimes seem too hard to eat out when you’re on a specific health/food plan that limits what you can eat/drink, not to mention socially isolating; But it need not be like this. Firstly you need to remember that if you are on a “diet” or a specific plan, whether you’ve done it yourself or a healthcare practitioner has advised you of it, the intention for it was clearly to maximise optimal health, so it was a choice and when you make a choice you can’t say that you are missing out, because you’re not. All this means is that you’ll need to think outside the box a little from what you would normally opt for.
Here are some tips to help you.
1) Read the menu thoroughly & ASK questions. Fancy words and poetic descriptions excite our senses and emotions especially when the belly is rumbling and unfortunately sometimes what’s presented on the plate isn’t how the poem read, so you end up getting something that isn’t ideal for or a part of your “diet”. Ensure that you read the menu and ask the wait staff questions so that you can be rest assured that you made the right decision and don’t have regrets or guilt and also that your meal doesn’t contain any of the things you can’t have
2) Order a side of veg or salad. Veggies and salads are a great way to add extra nutrients and freshness to your meal as well as bringing balance to a dish. They are a light (provided you don’t have them smothered in butter or creamy dressing) addition to a dish without adding extra calories or making you feel heavy or sluggish. Either order a side or pick a dish with lots of veggies or that is a salad base.
3) Water in a fancy glass. If you aren’t drinking alcohol, why not have some sparkling water in a fancy wine glass or champagne flute. Ask for the wait staff to put some fresh mint, lemon, lime or orange slices in it to add flavour and make it a bit special.
4) It’s ok to leave food on your plate. Tell yourself that it’s ok to leave food on your plate regardless of the cost. Quite often we feel obliged to eat everything on our plate even if we don’t want it, purely because of the fact that we are paying for it. But you know what? It’s ok for you to leave food on your plate. As long as you are satisfied and have enjoyed what you’ve eaten, you are getting value for money and your body will also appreciate the fact that you listened to it and didn’t over stress it with extra food.
5) Aim for balance. Getting the macro-nutrients (carbs, fat & protein) in our meals is important for proper functioning. So again, question the dishes you are looking at and ask yourself do they appear balanced? Is there a combination of good carbs, fat & protein in that dish in a relatively balanced ratio? If yes, great; if not, perhaps order veggies or salad or omit something from the dish. We need balance for optimal health.
6) Be in control of your “normal” diet. We can’t always be in control of where we go and what’s on the menu, but you can be in control of your daily diet and let’s face it, it’s not always a bad thing if we choose a creamy, cheesy dish or even have some chips on the side. It becomes bad if your “normal” diet is filled with those things and more or if you dine out regularly and opt for those things. If you can be more in control of your day to day diet with clean, fresh, healthy foods, then when you eat out it won’t be too much of a burden on your body. Obviously opting for the best that’s available on the menu is always recommended.
7) Things aren’t always what they appear. More often than not we aim to remain healthy when eating out, but sometimes the things that are perceived to be healthy aren’t always. Sushi can be a good example. It’s certainly a lighter option than most convenient foods, but it is loaded with refined carbohydrates, which means a quick sugar source to the body and perhaps the need for something sweet in a couple of hours when it wears off. Brown rice sushi is a slightly better option, but a salad or even some poached eggs on sourdough with avocado is a far more nutritious & satisfying option. “Homemade” muffins, banana bread & fruit toasts are another example of this – lots of sugars, fat and refined flours
8) Set the rules with your mind before you buy. A lot of our choices are driven by the minds influence and food choices are no exception and are often poor when hunger is involved. Before you buy or choose your meal set the rules with the mind first. This way you are more likely to make a healthier choice and feel more empowered for it. The same goes for alcohol consumption.
9) Order smaller portions or share. There’s nothing wrong with ordering smaller portions or even just sharing your dish/es. You’re more likely to feel satisfied and content about the amount you’ve had than wishing you didn’t over eat and are now planning your next visit to the gym.
10) Don’t double up. Be mindful when making choices that you aren’t doubling up on the major food groups; for example having naan bread and basmati rice or deep fried spring rolls and honey chicken. Before you know it and without realising you’ve just had refined carb on refined carb or oil on oil. It’s not going to sit right with your digestive system, your blood sugar levels and your poor liver. Also think about what you ate earlier on the day……
Article by Golden Door Nutritionist Olivia Horvat-Benson