As we grow closer to the holidays, and the social schedule fills up to the max, we inevitably find ourselves dining out a lot more. Sometimes it is socially, other times, it is just what we choose to do in the pinch of the busy moment. As all this fun and great food starts to build up momentum in your calendar, any commitments or efforts to eating healthy, or even eating out healthy start to become less of a priority. But you don’t have to let that happen unless you truly want to.
Wondering how to keep your healthy commitments, when faced with an unfamiliar menu at a restaurant, is one of the top considerations my nutrition coaching clients share when we are going through their initial consultations. You’ll be happy to learn that it is actually pretty easy to handle when you have a plan and a few tips. So, I have prepared a small list of things to consider when you are committed to eating out healthy, as opposed to eating out with set backs. This will come in handy especially over the holidays, when most people do themselves in and throw all their wellness commitments out with the turkey carcass.
5 Considerations for Eating Out Healthy
1. Who is Preparing Your Food?
Yes, that actually is as persnickety as it sounds. It pays to build a database of local and favorite restaurants where you know who the owners are, and what their mission is in owning a restaurant. I explain this to clients all the time about grocery stores they frequent. If you want to live a healthful, organic lifestyle where your food is nutrient-dense, clean fuel, do you want a restaurant that only serves “organic” options because they want a piece of that market? Or would it perhaps be a better buying decision to patronize a restaurant where the owners’ sole mission is to bring organic foods to their clientele? Think about it. Making a lifestyle commitment to live well takes discipline, some education, and for my clients even some coaching! Surround yourself with friends, businesses, resources, chefs, and restauranteurs who truly and organically have your back. By doing this you have a built-in no fail network of restaurants that will champion your healthy commitment, rather than just “catering” to it.
2. Did You Check the App?
There are some great apps that you can install on your smart phone so that finding a place that suits your healthy lifestyle is super easy, even when traveling away from your home city. Here are a few that I like, and a couple taken from an article on clark.com:
Food Tripping app – Find great alternatives to fast food wherever you are. Food Tripping locates the closest eateries, juice joints, farmers’ markets, microbreweries, and more
Gluten Free Restaurant Items app – Provides you with gluten free food items of over 150 most popular restaurant and fast-food chains.
Find Me Gluten Free app – Helps you eat gluten free and more than that, with free apps that help you find gluten free businesses and products.
DINE Gluten Free app – Lets you access a huge database of gluten free dining and travel reviews from the U.S. and around the world.
There are probably more out there, so I encourage you to explore and have some fun with it. Let me know in the comments of you find a good one!
3. Can You Plan Your Order Ahead of Time?
Most restaurants have a website with their current menu published. If you know where you will be dining, it pays to take a few minutes to review the menu and decide ahead of time what you are going to order. Why is this so important? Because, if you wait until you are sitting with your friends or family before you decide what to eat, your decision process is more likely to be led by your subconscious habits around celebrating and dining out with friends. And, you are more likely to be inadvertently swayed by peer or social pressure to order something that might not be as good for your body. If you have specific questions or concerns about a menu item, you can even call the restaurant ahead to get your questions answered. That way, you don’t have to “make a scene” or draw attention to yourself at the table when it comes time to order. You can be ready before you even get to the restaurant, and place your order with grace, ease, and razor sharp confidence that you are making healthy, supportive choice for yourself.
4. Does Your Order Fit Your Healthy Plate Blueprint?
What does that mean exactly? Basically, I am just suggesting that you take the basic architecture of whatever diet protocol or macro and micro nutrient guidelines you are trying to stick to, and apply it to a “blueprint” of what your plate will always generally look like. If you don’t have any idea, you can start with my all-purpose “clean eating plate” that consists of:
1/2 colorful non starchy vegetables
1/4 clean protein
1/8 healthy carbs, grains, starchy vegetables, fruit
1/8 healthy fats.
So, when you go to place your order, you want to start by identifying menu items that comprise of at least 50% vegetables. This does not have to look like something sitting on half your plate. It can be a veggie burrito with mostly veggies and a little rice and beans, or a veggie stir fry with some chicken added and just a touch of rice, etc. You can do something similar if, for example, you are keeping Paleo. A Paleo plate would look similar, but it might have more room for clean protein and perhaps no starchy carbs at all since those are generally not allowed on a Paleo diet. You can draw out a diagram to keep with you, or just keep it in your head when you go to order at a restaurant.
5. Are You Making Yourself and Everyone Uptight?
In other words: Lighten up!! It’s only food, and even if you totally fall off your healthy wagon, your body is designed to digest, process, and bounce back. If all else fails, just enjoy your time with your friends. Try being candid about your healthy commitment. Share your healthy adventures with your friends. Laugh at yourself. Make friends with your server. They will be more likely to assist you and provide you with the valuable information you need about the menu if you include them in your process and reassure them that you can’t achieve your wellness goals without their help. This goes for your friends and dining companions as well. Sometimes our friends become “Sally Saboteurs” around our eating commitments, because they feel threatened that our healthy habits might impose on eating traditions that they look forward to sharing with us. Include your friends so they are a part of your healthy journey. Tell them you rely on their support and friendship to be successful. You will end up having a great time, and you may even convert them over to the “happy healthy-eating side.”
So go forth into the crazy holiday season a more empowered and nourished soul. I promise that at the beginning of the new year you will thank yourself. And you might even have a clearer, more enjoyable memory of the whole season.
If you enjoyed reading these tips for keeping your commitment to eating out healthy, you will LOVE joining us on our Healthy Holiday Challenge. You can learn more about that, and get more Healthy Holiday Eating Tips on our upcoming ZOOM Hangout webinar. Get your free attendance link and RSVP here!