Updated: Apr 29
So, you're chugging along with your health and wellness goals, making progress and celebrating the small wins. Then BAM! it all comes crashing down. It's someone's birthday or the girls want a night out and the location is a restaurant. You start to worry that all your hard work will come undone if you attend and you wonder if it's really worth going...
Not only should you go but you should also E N J O Y yourself. Give yourself permission to have fun with your friends, laugh, eat tasty food, drink the wine! A health plan is crappy if it doesn't allow you the freedom to still enjoy food, even when it may not be serving your body. That type of food is what I like to call "soul food" and well need soul food from time-to-time.
Thankfully, you won't throw your health out the window in one night (trust me, one night will never undo all the hard work you have put in) but there are simple ways to stay on track with your goals while still enjoying the pleasures of yummy food and company.
1. Eat A Small Meal Beforehand
When I was a kid and my family was going to a buffet for dinner, my dad would always say to us first thing in the morning "don't eat too much today, that way you are super hungry when we get to the buffet". I laugh now because I could eat all day and still be hungry at dinner!
The reality is though, the hungrier you are, the more likely you are to overindulge. To safeguard from wanting to order everything on the menu, eat a small meal or snack beforehand. This ensures you are not showing up to the restaurant starving. It also safeguards you from the "my eyes are bigger than my stomach" problem!
2. Eat Slowly
Eating slowly is important as it helps prevent overeating. Our hunger hormone, ghrelin, works to tell us when we are hungry and our satiety hormone, leptin, works to tell us when we are full. Unfortunately, there is a lag between the ghrelin and satiety hormones, which makes us think we are still hungry even when we aren't. This causes us to fill our bellies way too full and we all know how uncomfortable that is.
There are two ways to combat this: eat slowly and stop eating when you are almost full. Eating slowly gives the satiety hormone more time to kick-in and tell us we are full. It's also a great practice whenever we are eating as we generally enjoy our food more when we take the time to really taste and feel the textures. The second thing we can do is stop eating when we feel almost full. We are likely already full at this point but our satiety hormone just hasn't reached our brain to tell us to stop eating.
3. Share an Appetizer and/or Dessert
If I am being honest, 3/4 of the reason I like to eat at restaurants is for the appetizers and desserts (cheesecake, om nom nom) buttttt, we all know that they tend to be packed with sugar, high calories and other goodies. One way to have your (cheese)cake and eat it too (see what I did there!), is to split it with someone else. You get to enjoy the taste of the food while not going completely overboard (plus, it saves $$), I'd say that's a win-win-win.
4. Ask for sauces and dressings on the side
What goes on inside a kitchen at a restaurant is a mystery. We generally have no idea how much salt, butter, sauces and dressings the cooks use to get the dish tasting perfect. Thankfully, most places are accommodating if you ask to have sauces, salt and dressings on the side. That way, when your dish arrives, you can control how much you want to put on! Also, another great alternative to standard salad dressing is olive oil and balsamic vinegar (which is als
5. Substitute fries/potatoes for a salad or vegetables
Another great way to stay on track is to substitute fries/potatoes for a salad or vegetables. This way you still get to enjoy the amazing meal (soul food) but you can also eat it while knowing you are feeding your body something nutritious (another win-win!).
6. Enjoy yourself
Last, but certainly not least, enjoy yourself. Don't focus on these tips too much! Use them as a guideline but also let yourself off the hook. Let yourself have fun and enjoy the food. It is such a pleasure and privilege to have someone else prepare, cook, serve and clean for us. Really take that time to enjoy the atmosphere, your company, the food and the overall experience. Like I said above, your hard work won't come undone in one night, so don't worry about that!