When you’re trying to stick to a diet or a meal plan, going out to eat a restaurant could potentially derail your efforts.
While a single splurge won’t completely undo all your hard work, it can often be the first step down a slippery slope. Once you skip your diet for a restaurant meal, you may follow up with an unhealthy snack the next day or order takeout. Before you know it, you’ve gone back to your old eating routine.
No one should have to deprive themselves of an evening out at a nice restaurant. With a bit of planning, you can make it work.
Here are 8 simple tips for eating at any restaurant without throwing your diet out the window.
The first tip is to choose the right restaurant. Some restaurants will naturally have healthier options than other establishments.
For example, American and Italian cuisine tends to be more fattening than the menu items that you’ll find at a Greek, Middle Eastern, or Mediterranean restaurant. Though, this isn’t always the case. There are also major restaurant chains that provide healthy options for the health-conscious diner.
Before you choose a restaurant, visit the official websites of the places that you’re considering visiting. Take a look at their menu and see what options they have available.
Another option is to take part of your meal home in a doggie bag. There is no rule that you need to finish your plate at the restaurant.
Studies show that portion sizes have gradually increased over the past 4 decades. In fact, portion sizes may have grown by 138%. Cutting your meal in half would result in a meal about the same size as what you would have received 40 years in the past.
If you find yourself in an Italian restaurant with a plate of spaghetti, ask for a doggie bag and take the remaining food home.
The next tip is to limit the number of people that you eat with. Studies show that the more people there are at the table the more you will eat.
For example, eating with just one other person can increase the size of your meal by 33%. With each additional person at the table, the portion sizes increase. With 7 other people at the table, your portion size is likely to increase by 96%.
This doesn’t mean that you need to eat alone. But, you may not want to visit a restaurant with a large group of people.
Eating before you eat can help you eat less. It’s a pretty simple concept. If you have a light snack or meal before your dinner, your stomach will already be partially full.
This goes against the idea of saving up your calories for dinner. You should never practice that behavior. When you avoid food throughout the day to eat more for dinner, you’re more likely to eat more than you should.
Instead, eat a normal breakfast and lunch, and then have a snack or light meal before you have your final meal.
Similar to the previous tip, you could drink a glass of water before your meal. This is actually a healthier option than the previous choice. Though, it may not be quite as effective.
About 15 to 30 minutes before your meal, consume a large glass of water. The water will help you feel fuller, even though you haven’t eaten yet. This should make it easier to limit your portion size or cut yourself off before ordering dessert.
Being the first person at your table to order is a great way to avoid choosing an unhealthy menu item. While you’ve carefully decided on the meal that you choose, your friends or family may order something else.
When you see that your friend has ordered a large, appetizing meal, you may throw your plans out the window and follow their lead. Don’t be tempted to eat the same meals as everyone else.
Most restaurants will allow you to substitute certain items or remove ingredients from your meal.
For example, if you order a burger, but want to watch your carbs, you could ask to have one of the buns removed or you could ask for coleslaw instead of fries. When the server approaches your table, ask about the substitutions and other options.
You may think that distractions can help you eat less. When you’re talking or checking your phone, you’re not taking a bite of your food. But, these distractions actually keep your brain from recognizing when you’re full.
With constant distractions, you may continue to eat, even after you’ve already filled your stomach. So, put away your phone and try to avoid watching the game on the big screen television. Remain present and focused on your food and conversation with your friends or family.
Hopefully, these tips will be able to help you stick to your diet. But, if you do avoid all these tips and decide to eat a fattening meal at a restaurant, don’t beat yourself up.
A single meal will not destroy the effort that you’ve put into losing weight or getting in better shape. Though, it does increase your risk of returning to your old habits. So, be careful.
Remember to consider the type of restaurant that you’ll visit. Also, check out their menu before you go.
When you order, you should be the first to order, so that you’ll stick to your plans. Eating a light snack or drinking a glass of water before you eat can also help you cut down on how much you eat. If you have leftovers, pack a doggie bag.
If you slip, you need to get right back on track. If you eat an unhealthy meal, don’t follow it up with an unhealthy snack. Resume your diet or meal plan as soon as possible.