Eating out often leads to eating too much, and too much of the wrong things. But as awareness grows and the needs of health conscious diners are met, menu options are changing and nutritionally-intelligent choices are now available. Even some chain restaurants offer healthy options.
A few simple suggestions about dining out can go a long way toward keeping you healthy and boosting your metabolism. Remember there are no good or bad foods if they are whole foods (with a few notable exceptions). As Paracelsus, the ancient physician reminds us, "The dose makes the poison."
With that in mind, here is what to do when you eat out.
- Prepare your mind. before you begin your meal by practicing the 3-3-3 technique. This is especially important when dining out because you may not always be able to control the menu's quality, but by eating with awareness, you will be more likely to control your overall intake.
The 3-3-3 technique:
- Enjoy a moment of gratitude before you begin eating.
- Take 3 relaxing deep breaths to the count of three in and three out before you begin eating.
- During the first few minutes (3 minutes) of your meal, rest your hands in your lap at least 3 times, taking a relaxing breath with each break.
- Discover some "slow food" restaurants where the atmosphere and ambience is soothing to your senses. Our eating environment influences how much we end up eating.
- Enjoy ethnic cuisine including Indian, Japanese, Thai, Mediterranean (Italian, Greek, and Spanish) and Middle Eastern. You will reap different nutritional benefits from traditional ingredients such as lemongrass in Thai dishes, sea vegetables in Japanese dishes, curry in Indian dishes and great greens such as escarole or broccoli rabe in Mediterranean dishes.
- Be inquisitive. Ask questions about ingredients and don't be afraid to ask for substitutions in a dish. For example, instead of the white rice, request brown rice, instead of a starchy fried vegetable, double the green vegetable.
- Mix and match menu items. If you see a dish on the menu that comes with cranberry orange relish and your dish comes with gravy, ask the waiter to switch. If your dish has a vegetable you don't particularly like, while another dish has a vegetable you adore, "mix and match" to get the healing foods you love.
- Request a "crudités platter" fresh fruit or olives as a starter or appetizer instead of the breadbasket. Bread and alcohol at the beginning of a meal increases your hunger and the alcohol decreases your inhibitions, making it more likely you'll make a play for the cheesecake.
- Request "double the veggies". Restaurants may overload the quantity of fish, meat and poultry and skimp on the produce, especially the steamed vegetables.
- Order a light drink. Try a Virgin Mary, sparkling water with a spritz of lemon or lime, or an herbal tea instead of alcohol before the meal.
- Check in with your gut-brain before ordering dessert. Rate your sense of satisfaction and if you are a "3-gently satisfied" (1 Not satisfied 2 3 Gently Satisfied 4 5 Too full), then use your freedom of choice to skip dessert. There will always be another night for the perfect indulgence.
To learn more about how to eat out successfully and to learn other tips that will help you stay on the program, join my Nutrition Coaching Program and talk to one of our trained nutritionists.