Whether it is enjoying meals out with friends; or, entertaining with colleagues / clients, we all need to be able to eat out without sabotaging our health goals.
As busy professionals, many of my clients have to eat out regularly and so have less control over their meals than clients that are able to cook their meals. I have shared below some of the hacks we have developed together to maintain healthy eating whilst out and about.
Before Heading Out
Beware of drinking your calories – many cocktails can contain anything between 250-450kcal, a glass of wine 120-280kcal, a pint of larger 170-340kcal…
There are a few simple things that you can do before setting off that can set you up for success
A quick healthy snack before leaving – arriving at a restaurant ravenous can wreak havoc with the self-control of a saint. All the smells and sight of all the options – combined with the distraction of talking and catching up – will have most people selecting the most fat and sugar laden options on the menu. A high fiber or high protein snack such as a piece of fruit or a yogurt can calm the hunger pangs and allow you to select your choices mindfully.
Checking the menu before leaving – if available, it is a good idea to review the menu before leaving – many restaurants provide their menus online these days. Checking out the options before you arrive at the restaurant again gives you the opportunity to choose while you are not hungry and/or distracted by food smells and other people’s selections.
Drink some water – Okay use this one with some caution, depending on how far you have to go… Drinking water about half an hour before your meal can help you eat less (a lot of the time what we think is hunger is actually thirst).
At the restaurant
Now you are here, what should you choose?
Having a drink before eating means you will not mistake thirst for hunger and can keep you from overeating
…BUT, that depends on what you drink…
1g alcohol = 7kcal – a glass of red wine can cost you up to 250kcal. Also, alcohol may impede your ability to choose the remainder of your meal carefully…
You might also want to avoid drinks that include added sugar.
A well selected starter can take the edge off your hunger and help you control your overall intake…
Consider soup – ideally go for a clear broth type soup, avoid creamy or chowder type soups as these can be loaded with extra calories.
Other good options would include grilled prawns, salad (dressing on the side), smoked salmon, wholemeal bread
Avoid – deep fried / battered items, creamy soups or sticky wings
Ask about the cooking method – baked / grilled / broiled tends to be much lighter than sautéed or deep fried;
Consider swapping chips or mash for beans or veg or salad. Ideally try to have 50% of your plate made up of bight coloured food – red / yellow / green / orange, as opposed to white / cream / brown.
Swap cream based sauces for tomato based sauces – choosing a tomato based sauce will increase your veg intake and, is very likely to be lighter than a cream based option.
Fruit, cheese, sorbets tend to be lighter choices than pastries, crumbles, cakes.
I would not recommend coffee if the meal is dinner, as caffeine can mess with our ability to sleep – setting off a whole new vicious cycle – without proper sleep, we end up synthesising too much cortisol, leading to insulin resistance, high blood sugar and, you guessed it, weight gain!!
A few more tricks
There’s lots of other hacks you can consider to help stay healthy…
Ordering first – If you have looked at the menu beforehand; ordering before everyone else will stop you from changing your mind based on what your companions are doing.
Asking for sauces / dressings on the side – this way you can control how much you add. A couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise can add 140calories to your “salad”.
Have two starters – This is a good hack for places where portions are huge – manage your portion size by having another starter in place of a main. Combining a second starter with salad / veg will also help you get the right proportion of veg in your meal
Sharing is caring – can’t resist dessert? Why not share or ask the waiter to place half in a doggy bag to take back with you
Mindful eating – thinking about the sources of the food you are enjoying and slowing down to savour can give you a chance to realise you are full. You can even put utensils down between each mouthful and/or set yourself a minimum number of chews for each mouthful to slow yourself down.
There is absolutely no reason to avoid going out when you are trying to eat healthy – all that is needed is a little attention – combined with good company and lots of laughter.