By Avance Care Licensed Nutritionist: Erin Burke, MS, RDN, LDN
1. Do not skip meals. This is one major mistake people make when planning a night out. Too often, individuals will go light on breakfast and lunch (or skip entirely) to make up for a night of dining out. Unfortunately, this will leave you ravenous by the time you get to the restaurant. It will be much harder to resist the breadsticks when you are starving. Instead, eat a balanced breakfast, lunch, and snack, if you need it, so you do not get “hangry”. Examples include a whole-wheat English muffin with peanut butter; Greek yogurt and fruit parfait; or veggie-egg scramble with oatmeal. For lunch, try a protein-packed bowl of quinoa, lean protein like beans or chicken, and some roasted vegetables.
2. Consider what you really want. If you get the grilled chicken salad when you really want the pasta dish, can you easily move on? Or will you be thinking about the pasta all night? You may be better off starting with a side salad or vegetable soup, ordering the dish you want, and saving half of it for later. Too often we fall into this “all-or-nothing” mindset. When we deprive ourselves, the cravings often win, and not in a “moderate” way!
3. Eat half, take half. Restaurant portions are huge. One entrée can easily add up to 1000+ calories. Often splitting a portion in half can result in 2 reasonable sized portions! For the next day, try adding some frozen, steamable vegetables to the leftovers to bulk them up. This works really well with pasta dishes and stir fries – you can add a handful of frozen veggies right to your plate before microwaving!
4. Eat mindfully. Dining out is meant to be a fun and relaxing experience! Instead of obsessing over how “good” or “bad” your meal is, focus on how it tastes, how you feel eating it, and the environment around you. Take time to look at your entrée, smell it, taste it, and think about the texture.
5. Remember, you can always go back. Eliminate the pressure to eat everything on your plate. In most cases, the restaurant will still be there in a week, month, and year. You can always return for this entrée again. Your diet doesn’t start “tomorrow” – your healthy lifestyle is every day, and foods are meant to be enjoyed!