I love to go out to dinner but dining out can wreak havoc on healthy eating plans. (Note: If this comes as a shock to you please email me ASAP so we can have a chat.)
But since I don’t want to cook every night, I’ve learned some great, real-world tricks and tips so that I can have an enjoyable and delicious meal without breaking the caloric budget!
Embrace the Lighter Options of the menu. Many restaurants are creating 500-600 calorie meals for those who wish to eat on the lighter side. BJ’s, Applebee’s and even Marie Callendars have quite a few options that not only taste great but actually fill you up. I’m a volume girl so having enough food matters! Pair your meal with a veggie or broth-based soup as a starter and you’ll be good to go.
Learn to sub smart. My kids’ favorite restaurant is Panchito’s. Mexican food is a challenge because it starts with the chips and a beer and can quickly turn into cheese-smothered goodness if you’re not paying attention. My go-to at most Mexican restaurants is a grilled fish taco combination plate. Fish tacos usually come with 1 or 2 corn tortillas, cabbage and a dressing or light sauce. I swap rice out for a salad, have black beans instead of re-fried and ask for extra salsa.
This one will surprise a lot of people who have ever eaten out with me because like Joey on the show Friends, I don’t share. (And when it comes to dessert – order your own and if you can’t eat it all, that’s what take out containers are for.) However, when Brad and I go out to eat we will often split 2 things. Usually it’s a burger and fries and a side salad. But I have to have my own plate. Let’s keep to our own personal space here.
Go easy on the drinks. Alcohol crushes your willpower and sensible eating plans will go down in a plate of hot wings just like that. If you want a drink while you linger over the menu, have a snack before head out to the restaurant. About 10 almonds, a piece of fruit, a container of light yogurt or a Laughing Cow wedge on a few crackers. It will take the edge off your hunger so that when your Pinot Grigio or Margarita (on the rocks,no salt) hits your gullet, something is there to sop it up.
If I’m stumped with finding something healthy at any restaurant a large green salad topped with a grilled chicken breast, grilled salmon filet or grilled prawns is a great bet. Add avocado, hold the cheese and croutons and have a balsamic vinaigrette and your meal is complete.
Of course there are some dining experiences that should not be tampered with. Birthday (yours), Anniversary (also yours) or a restaurant where the food (and dessert) really, really matters. In these situations, have what you love and don’t worry about it. Tomorrow you can buckle down.
But if it’s a normal meal out with the family or kids, use my very simple tips or tweaks and you can dine out without too much damage!
Now go run!