Eating out regularly can potentially play havoc with your weight loss and healthy eating efforts but it doesn't have to. Below I have noted down some of the strategies I personally use when I’m trying to control my calorie intake and maintain a healthy eating regime whilst eating out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of the 80/20 balanced eating mantra (eating ‘healthy’, nutrient dense food 80% of the time and reserving the chocolate, dessert and alcohol to approximately 20% of the time) but when the balance gets shifted in the wrong direction it’s important to pull in the reins to keep yourself on track, and you can do this even if your life dictates that you have to eat out regularly
TOP TIPS FOR EATING OUT......when you eat out regularly
*DON’T GO HUNGRY – You've heard the old adage, ‘don’t go shopping when you’re hungry’, but I think it’s wise not to go to a restaurant over-hungry either, especially if you are trying to control and be sensible with your food choices. I’m not suggesting you fill up on a meal before you go, but you could take the edge off your appetite by having a small mug of vegetable soup or some fruit and yoghurt before you leave the house; by doing this you may be less tempted by the bread basket and calorie dense stodgy menu options, and unlikely to over-consume and eat large portions
*SKIP THE EXTRAS – If you’re already having a starter and main course, it’s fairly unquestionable to suggest that you don’t need the extras. Consider saying no to the bread basket with its accompanying liberal butter/oil portion, and if it’s going to be your third or fourth pudding of the week, it might be an idea to say no to the dessert menu as well
*DOWNSIZE – many restaurant menus now feature the option to have a smaller serving size of some of their meals. This is a welcomed initiative in my opinion given our exposure to large food portions. Italian is one of my favourite cuisines and I do love a good penne carbonara, but now I tend to opt for the half portion of this creamy, calorie-dense dish and bulk out the rest of the meal with vegetables/salad. If half portions are not available, consider sharing a large meal with a friend/colleague or ask for a doggy bag and have the leftovers for another meal (although this will depend on the dish)
*BE IN CONTROL – Don’t be afraid to engage with the waiter/waitress serving you. Ask about how dishes are cooked and served: opt for grilled or baked food rather than fried where possible; request that vegetables are steamed without butter; ask for sauces and gravies and salad dressings (be mindful that seemingly 'safe' salads can contain calorie-laden dressings) to go on the side so that you can control the amount you put on your food
*SMART SWOPS – a lot of people love fries/chips as a side to their main meals, but if you have been eating out regularly, peruse the ‘sides’ menu to see whether there is a lower calorie alternative available. Ask for extra vegetables or salad instead, or opt for potato sides that haven’t been fried such as sweet potato mash (without butter) or baked sweet potato wedges, which are both quite popular on menus now
*BE DRINK AWARE – yes the obvious, it’s best to restrict on alcohol calories when you've perhaps been indulging already earlier in the week, but don’t forget the non-alcoholic calories such as the regular soda drinks and those exceptionally large glasses of fruit juice they serve. Consider soda water with a dash of lime or blackcurrant and if you can’t resist the wine, you could go for a wine spritzer instead.