If you have made a commitment to eat clean and change your diet, then nothing will make you feel trapped like an invitation to dine-out with your plus one, or even worse an invitation for a group gathering where you feel like all eyes will be on you. With the average restaurant dish containing around 1000 calories, sides to be ordered and cocktails to be consumed, one night out can make you feel like you have fallen off the healthy eating train.
However, the truth is, dinner dates are where the best memories are made and saying no to going out is not a sustainable lifestyle choice. What is more sustainable however is the idea of adopting balance and learning how to dine-out the smart way without guilt or hesitation. It means making small changes to your dining habits, which will have a positive impact on both your health and wallet.
Study the menu before you book
Put your hand up and volunteer to organise your group gathering. This will allow you to choose your restaurant and review their menu. If the menu on offer is filled with crispy, pan-fried, deep-fried, breaded and crusted options, then chances are you won’t find healthier alternatives you are looking for. Instead look out for boiled, steamed, poached, baked or grilled dishes. This doesn’t mean that everyone else needs to miss out, it just means that you also have healthier options.
Opt for healthy sides
What often leaves our stomachs a little heavier and our wallets lighter are side dishes. Don’t be afraid to stick to your main meal if you don’t feel like added extras and if you do order side dishes, opt for healthier alternatives. Bread, fried potatoes and salads drenched in mayonnaise are often deceiving calorie culprits. Instead, why not try a side of steamed or roasted vegetables instead and a salad with a vinaigrette dressing. This will help you reach your daily serving of greens and vegetables the healthier way.
Watch your portion sizes
One of the main reasons that restaurant food is calorie-dense is that there is often more (a lot more) butter, oil and salt added to bring out those finger-licking flavours. Knowing this means understanding why it is important to watch your portion sizes. Don’t be afraid to ask the waiter for serving size options. If you have starters or sides, consider downsizing and don’t be scared to ask for a takeaway container if you can’t finish your meal. It’s better than eating yourself into a food coma.
Don’t drink your calories
A cocktail or two can easily undo a healthy meal, especially if you’re planning on heading to your favourite bar after dinner. As an example, if you’re eating Mexican and feel like a Piña colada to match, you could be drinking as much as 600 calories, with long island ice teas and margaritas containing an even higher calorie count. Why not opt for a martini or a gin and soda instead, which contain around 150 calories each. If you really want to minimise your calorie count then opt for gin or vodka soda, with a squeeze of lemon, which contain less than 100 calories.
We want you to have your cake and eat it too, but maybe not after you have just had a three-course meal or a bowl of pasta. Opt for a tea or coffee first, and if you are still craving something sweet, why not choose to go for a fruit platter. If that’s not on the menu, why not share your dessert amongst good company. A few mouthfuls will satisfy your taste buds while also ensuring you don’t eat the equivalent of an entire meal just for dessert.
Know your cuisine and make choices accordingly
You can still eat at your favourite restaurant but make small changes for significant gains. If you are craving Thai, opt for cold roles, sizzling vegetables and pad Thai over spring rolls, fried rice and anything with the word ‘pla’ which refers to fried foods. If dining at a Chinese restaurant, why not swap out your honey and sweet and sour based dishes for grilled options. Swap out your fried dumplings for steamed ones. If Sushi is your vice, opt for standard tuna rolls over spicy options that are laden with Japanese mayonnaise. If dining at an Italian restaurant, avoid white and pink sauces that are cream-based and opt for a red sauce. If ordering pizza, choose a thin base where possible and avoid cheese only options.Small changes mean significant gains for your health and ability to avoid a calorie blowout.