How to Navigate Eating Out

How to Navigate Eating Out

It never fails.  You’re working so hard to clean up your diet and make a serious lifestyle change to be healthier from here on out.  But it’s the weekend…

Your friends, spouse, or significant other want to eat out.  I mean…it is the weekend!  Now you’re faced with a dilemma.  Do you say no and feel left out or bored sitting at home?  Or do you say yes and risk falling off the health wagon?

The downside to eating out is not knowing what ingredients are in the food and the levels of sodium. You can easily get well above your required sodium intake in one restaurant meal.  Increased sodium intake can put stress on the kidneys, cause a spike in blood pressure, increase overall inflammation, and cause water retention.  

The other aspect is not knowing all the ingredients.  We live in an age where most people have at least one food sensitivity.  Not knowing what is in a meal can derail any healing efforts when it comes to that sensitivity.  Dairy, a common food sensitivity, is often an ingredient in restaurant food that isn’t listed.  Think butter and milk.  

I always tell my clients, what’s healthy living if you aren’t having fun?

There are techniques you can employ so you don’t go overboard when going out and don’t feel like you have to stay home.

Suggest a Healthy Place to Eat

I don’t go out often because I’m an introvert and LOVE being in my PJs.  It’s just who I am.  But when I do leave the house, I have a handful of restaurants that I like to go to. Sure, I step outside my selection on occasion, but if I’m going out, I want to stay as healthy as I can while still enjoying myself.

I undoubtedly suggest a restaurant from my list to the group or whoever it is I’m going out with.  And if I’m putting the soiree together, you best believe I’m picking a joint I can eat at and feel good about myself after! (Side note: I almost always feel good about myself and rarely let slip ups bother me…but I recognize that’s not the case for everyone.  Be gentle with yourself!)

In most towns across the US, there is usually at least one place you can go to eat and not feel guilty when you leave.  Why not suggest this place when deciding on where to eat?  Do you research and always have a suggest ready when the topic comes up!

Eat first

This goes for holiday gatherings, office parties, or anywhere you know won’t have an abundance of healthy options.  Have a meal first.

If you know you’re headed out at 8 pm for dinner, why not have a small meal at 7 pm?  This meal doesn’t have to be anything crazy big. Consume half your normal portion. This will help reduce overeating at the restaurant or food gathering.   

Eat Your Vegetables

This tip goes for any healthy eating pattern…eat your vegetables first.  I tell my clients that a healthy plate should be comprised of 50% vegetables.  Yes…half of your plate should be veggies.

If you employ this at home, employ it when you’re eating out.  Whatever dish you order, get a double side of broccoli instead of a serving of pasta or mashed potatoes.  Yes, I know that potatoes are a veg, but they are starchy and produce a spike in glucose in the body.

If you’re ordering a dish that doesn’t come with veg, get some extra on the side.  Or start with a salad.  Ordering a salad as an appetizer is a great way to get a head start on quelling the hunger so you don’t overeat when the main dish comes.  I would order it without cheese and croutons.  Croutons are highly processed and the cheese usually isn’t good for most people.  Stick with a vinegar based dressing as well…just say no to ranch 🙂

Scope It Out

We have this amazing tool at our disposal…the internet and smart phones.  If you know where you’re going, why not pull up the menu and do a little research?  This will give you an idea of what types of food they serve.  You can rifle through the menu and find something that fits your eating habits.  

Another alternative is to contact the restaurant.  You would be surprised how accommodating a restaurant can be.  They want to ensure they keep customers happy.  If you have dietary restrictions and don’t see something you can eat, contact the manager on duty and explain the situation.  I’ve seen people get dishes made just for them by taking this extra step.

Or…Just Indulge 🙂

If you’ve been eating healthy all week, you can always treat yourself.  Treating yourself is all about moderation.  If you eat healthy 80% of the time, you can indulge guilt free 20% of the time without derailing all your efforts.

This is not the case for those on a therapeutic diet.  If I, or another practitioner placed you on a therapeutic diet, I’d adhere to it as closely as you possibly can.  

The point is…you can stay healthy and maintain a certain quality of life.  These tips are also applicable to any holiday as well 🙂

What are your favorite tips for staying healthy when eating out?  Drop a comment below so that others can pick up new tips!

Sunny Brigham, MS, CNS

I'm Sunny! I'm a board-certified clinical nutritionist with an MS in Clinical Nutrition. I help individuals reduce fatigue, eliminate bloat, and lose weight by healing the digestive tract and balancing hormones. I provide individual and group nutrition consultations nationwide. Join my closed Facebook group today!

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