By Hilary Sheinbaum
One too many times, we’ve been invited to partake in an indulgent dinner, and — instead of sticking to our healthy eating patterns — we go all in. We order drinks, apps, entrees, and desserts that perhaps we wouldn’t normally consume at home. Cue the 7-layer chocolate cake on a random Wednesday.
Of course, it’s totally ok and perfectly normal to enjoy whatever you want. However, the not-so-fun part comes when we don’t feel our best after dinner or the following day. Read: we went overboard on the bread bowl. Whoops.
Thankfully, there is a way to have your cake (and entree, and appetizer) and eat it, too. Before your next meal out, read on for helpful tips and tricks from Kat Burris, a San Diego-based MS, RDN & RD for Pitaya Foods.
“Most restaurants have their menus listed on the website, check it out before you go,” she says. “Choose a couple of options that you are comfortable with, and that will satisfy you and fit the nutrition criteria you are following. This helps to avoid the sudden impulse order that you may regret.”
“Have a light snack before you go,” says Burris. “It is so easy to overindulge when you are hangry! Pick something with protein or healthy fats and fiber, like a small handful of nuts, to keep you satiated until meal time.”
“Cocktails and soft drinks are packed with extra calories from sugar,” she says. “Order cocktails with mixers such as tonic or club soda, or stick to a glass of wine or light beer. Alternate alcoholic beverages with non-alcoholic ones like club soda or sparkling water.”
“Not only do salads take time to chew and enjoy, but the greens are also packed with fiber to make you feel fuller and satiated,” she says. Start with a salad to fill your stomach with greens and veggies before you get to your actual meal. In doing this, you are less likely to overindulge.
“Ask for items to be made ‘light’ on the oil, butter, salt or cheese,” says Burris. “This allows you to order what you please but get a lighter version with less calories, fat and salt.”
Furthermore, pick up on context clues. “Look for descriptive words like pan-fried, crispy, or breaded to avoid the added fat and salt,” she suggests.
“Do not be afraid to ask for that item steamed, baked, roasted, seared, or broiled instead.”
“Most restaurant portion sizes are 2-3 times a standard serving,” says Burris. “When your meal comes, immediately put half into the box and put it out of sight. Then you can enjoy your meal and lick your plate clean without counting bites or eating more than you would want to. And you have lunch for the next day!”
“Eat mindfully to fully enjoy the experience,” she says. “Focus on the social aspect of the meal by enjoying the conversation and being present. This mindful eating approach will help you slow down, pause between bites and relax, which aids in digestion. Fast eaters are often overeaters. Pay attention to the appearance, texture and taste of your food and savor each bite.”
After considering all of these tips, the last thing to do is to enjoy! Bon appetit!