We’ve all been there.
You’ve been eating healthy, you’ve been hitting your workouts, and you’re starting to see major results.
Then a friend calls, “Let’s grab dinner this weekend! I heard about this great new spot!”
You say yes, excited to spend some quality time with good friends, but then the anxiety starts to seep in. There are few things I love more than spending time with the people I love. Going out for a good meal and breaking bread deepens relationships in a way that few other activities can. But when we are in a cut or dialing in our nutrition, going out to eat with friends can easily become stressful.
Well, community is a big part of supporting our mental health, and we know that when our minds and bodies are healthy is when we see the most progress. So, I’ve put together a list of ten tips fore eating healthy at a restaurant to ensure you stay on track without sacrificing a night with your friends!
ONE: Don’t save up your calories all day.
The first, and maybe most surprising tip for eating healthy on a restaurant is not to save up your calories all day. It’s true that you want to be mindful of your macros if you’re planning on eating a more indulgent meal. But starving yourself leading up to dinner can lead to overindulging. Instead, wake up and have a regular breakfast and lunch. Instead of smaller portions, focus on eating lots of fruits and vegetables with protein to get your macro and micronutrients! This will give you lots of carbs and fats to use at dinner while ensuring that you’re still fueled for your day!
TWO: Look up the menu before you go!
One of the perks of living in the digital age is that you are able to find almost anything online! So, instead of playing the guessing game with your macros, take a look at the menu ahead of time and plan around whatever you’re hoping to order! It also gives you a chance to look at what dishes have more protein and what types of side dishes you could opt for instead of fries. Having these choices mapped out ahead of time can eliminate any stress that going out will knock you off track.
THREE: Drink plenty of water!
This sounds like an incredibly simple tip for eating healthy at a restaurant. But foods from restaurants tend to be higher in sodium, making us feel more dehydrated, which can trigger our hunger signals. Staying hydrated helps us prevent overeating. Plus, staying hydrated will definitely come in handy should you decide to have a glass of wine or cocktail at dinner!
FOUR: Feeling snacky? Have a snack.
The biggest barrier against eating healthy at a restaurant? The dreaded bread basket effect.
We’ve all been there. You get to the restaurant, hungry for a good meal, and the server plops a giant basket of chips and salsa in front of you. Before you know it, you’re salting the second basket and wondering if you even need to order your enchiladas after all. Having a healthy snack before dinner takes the edge off your hunger just enough so you can enjoy the chips without spoiling your supper.
FIVE: Ask for what you need.
Let’s say you looked at the menu, and the penne a la vodka is calling to you, but it doesn’t have any protein. Ask your server if you can add chicken or shrimp. Nine times out of ten, even if an option for extra protein isn’t listed, a restaurant is happy to add some to any dish if you ask!
SIX: When in doubt, opt for veggies.
Just like when you cook at home, making sure you are getting as many vegetables as possible with your meal is important when you’re eating at a restaurant. Add a side salad, or order one as an appetizer. The best case scenario is you get extra veggies in your diet; the worst case scenario is you fill up on veggies, and you have leftovers of a delicious meal to enjoy the next day!
SEVEN: Get the sauce on the side.
This is one of the easiest tricks for eating healthy at a restaurant. Salads are often over-dressed, and lots of menu items come with any number of sauces. Asking to get the dressing or additional condiments on the side not only can save you some calories but also allows you to add however much or little you like!
EIGHT: If you are worried about controlling your portions, ask for a to-go box.
Restaurant portions are often bigger than normal. Asking for a to-go box right away and putting a bit of your entree in there can help you ensure that you’ll have leftovers for lunch the next day and ensures you will only eat until you’re full.
NINE: Eat slowly.
Did you know that your first bite of food has a much stronger taste and creates a stronger sensation than each bite after? It’s so easy to eat quickly, especially when the food is tasty. But try and take the time to actually savor and enjoy your food, noticing the textures and flavors of each bite. This not only helps you slow down and listen to your hunger signals but keeps you present while enjoying your meal.
TEN: Drink water while you eat.
I get it, the food is so good, and the conversations are flowing; it’s easy to forget to pause and take a sip of water. But stopping and taking a sip of water not only helps you slow down, but it aids in digestion and helps us listen to our bodies when we are full.
Being stressed about food is not our goal. Having a healthy relationship with food is. Having a healthy relationship with food means that we have the power of choice. If we understand how food fuels us and what we need to reach our goals, we have the power to make choices – even at a restaurant – that get us closer to those goals. So make that reservation, go out, and have a good time! And if you are worried about going off the rails, choose two or three of these tools to keep your anxieties at bay.
You’ve got this!
PS if you want to work with a pro-dancer/ certified personal trainer who can make tailored training, nutrition, and recovery plans for you, you should check out our 1:1 coaching program, The Embodied Artist Academy