Tips for Eating Out Healthy

How to stop the self-sabotage that comes from eating out the wrong way

Photo by Jay Wennington on Unsplash

Photo by Jay Wennington on Unsplash

Just the other night, after finally getting the kids into their pj’s, teeth brushed, books read, stories told, and about 100 goodnights given, no sooner had I sat down and put my feet up did my husband come up from the basement with a huge bag of laundry.

The kid's laundry.

So much worse. Their clothes are so little and so much can be stuffed into a laundry basket before you actually have to do any of it. Ugh. My exhausted body melted even further into the sofa as I pressed my head back in-between the pillows and digressed, “Remember when we used to go every Friday night?”

“Yup” was all my husband could offer up as he laid a pair of Batman undies on the coffee table.

This got me thinking about just how much we really did go out before having kids. A Friday night was never spent at home cooking and lounging around. To me, a Friday night meant it was time to hit the town and release all that pent-up stress from the week. I hated my job at that time so a night out with a few drinks was always in order — actually a couple of glasses of wine a night were a staple as well!

It’s no wonder my waistline was a little plumper in those days. My clothes always felt a little more snug than I thought they should, and I remember one day coming across a photo of me in a bikini and being horrified! I was not as awesome looking in a bikini like I had imagined. (When looking in the bathroom mirror and sucking it all in, everything seemed to position itself in all its proper places. But when lounging on the beach, fat, just all over the place!

So what do you do when you realize you’re not as fit and fab as you think you are?

You freak out. You commit to never eating out again, to going cold turkey with the wine, and you decide you’re working out every single day. You want your life to change in the most dramatic fashion possible. And it has to start now!

As the vision of myself in a bikini became seared in my memory bank, many things changed since then. The most important of them is this: I learned how to cook really good food at home. Sometimes it’s that simple.

It’s been years since and I no longer cringe at photos of me in a bikini because I no longer carry 10 extra pounds around, and my waistline is the slimmest its ever been. (And I’ve had two babies since then!)

Girl, you have GOT to do more home cooking if you’re looking to lose weight!

There is no wiggle room there. Real food, real ingredients, real home cooked meals can help make all the difference.

But, I do know that we all need that girls night out every once and while, or a little couples therapy where we can go out and forget for a moment that we’re supposed to be responsible adults.

For those times when we really want to throw caution to the wind, we also don’t want to be carrying around last night’s pasta dish that’s attached itself directly to our mid-sections.

Armed with a little mental preparedness, and a lot of determination not to sabotage our best efforts and put us back a dress size, I’ve got a few helpful tips that I’ve employed that take the fear out of eating out. But remember, a healthy and happy body is made right in your own kitchen!

For when you do go out, here are 4 tips to help make eating out less impactful on your waistline!

Eating Out Tip #1

Skipping the bread is completely obvi so I’m not even going there. When you sit down, your best bet is to first drink a full glass of water before you put anything else in your mouth.

If you’re anything like me, you have been looking forward to this outing the way an inmate is looking at parole. You’re so flippin’ free you can’t even stand it. You’re basically floating into the restaurant because you’re thinking to yourself that right now you would normally be at home herding your kids into the bathtub. HA! Oh no… mommy is out tooooonight! So when you get to the restaurant it’s like all bets are off and you’re ready to paaaaar-tay! It’s at this point I’ll usually order the biggest, boldest wine I can find and oops, how did that go down so fast?!

Slow you roll girlfriend, slow your role. Taking that glassful of water is just like pumping the breaks. We’re not stopping the fun, we’re just harnessing the energy and using it for good, not hangover evil. You also won’t dive head first into any salty, crunchy, whatever yummy treat they place before you as you wait to place your order. Drink your water, say hello to those around you… and keep your phone off the table! (That’s a bonus tip.)

Eating Out Tip #2

You don’t need to eat a 4 or 5-course meal. Skip ordering an appetizer as an appetizer and instead order one as an entree.

Appetizer sizes are smaller and the food is usually pretty simple. There could be a tuna tar-tar or a grilled octopus if you’re into food from the sea. Chicken skewers, or little meatballs if you’re into meat. Maybe there is hummus and roasted veggies you use as dippers. Peruse the apps like the entrees don’t even exist. Appetizer portions are like regular people portions who aren’t trying to feed a family of 10 off one plate.

Eating Out Tip #3

There is this remote part of the menu that rarely sees the light of day, and it’s really only the true purveyors of fine cuisine who know it’s there and full of healthy options.

It’s that little teeny-tiny section down in the corner of the menu called “Sides”. But beware! There are some bad things lurking in there that by simply reading them will begin producing excess saliva in your mouth which will then immediately send the signal to your brain that your belly is ready to digest some food so send down those truffle fries STAT!

Ignore your body/mind and listen to your fat cells. They don’t want to take any friends home so please, order the spinach, or broccoli, or Brussels sprouts, and ask them to steam them instead of roasting the ever-loving goodness out of them. (I’m noticing a growing trend of Brussels sprouts being served blacker than grill marks on charred meat. The burnt to a crisp veggie is more harmful than helpful so best to avoid.) And ignore the fact that a plate of steamed broccoli can run you about $8… just ignore it and order them anyway!

Eating Out Tip #4

Ok, so now you’ve had a glass of water, an appetizer as an entree, and a side of steamed veggies, and now you’re feeling pretty righteous.

This is where it gets tricky. You may be feeling a little too good here, but I implore you, don’t get cocky. Don’t start patting yourself on the back just yet. There’s more to this meal and you know it, so pay attention because here comes that sly waiter hoping for a sliiiightly bigger tip with his little tiny dessert menu that he’ll casually place before you and leave it to your inner demons to hash out if it will be the bread pudding, pumpkin cheesecake, or that chocolatey lava thing!

Can I interest you in some dessert? Take your time, I’ll be back in a few minutes.

This indeed is a tricky moment. You’re feeling like you deserve that dessert. Just a bite. You’ve been doing so well!

Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not an option. Buck up girl and don’t get your panties all in a wad because dessert ain’t happening. Your reward is not packing on the pounds and sabotaging your weight loss efforts.

What you need to do here is to ask your waiter, Pardon me, but are there any fresh berries I could nibble on? Ignore the looks of disgust and poo-pooing from your friends. They can have their cake and eat it too, but not you. Not this time. This time you’re serious, and while you’re out to have fun and let loose, you’re not here to take home bigger fat cells.

Fruit and maybe a slice or two of cheese is all you need at the end of a meal. I remember as a little girl this was typically the dessert at my grandparent's house — and haven’t we heard many times to eat only what our grandparents would recognize as food?! A tray of fruit and walnuts… which you had to crack open yourself. Can you imagine? The horror ;)

Eat Smart!

Heading out for a night on the town is always a good idea, but it doesn’t have to be at the expense of your health or your weight loss efforts. You don’t need to be force-fed too large portions and eat 5-course meals. Just be smart so you’re not waking up hungover at 5 am with kids jumping on your head and poking at your belly asking if you’re pregnant again!

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As always, I’d love to hear from you and discover what tips you’ve uncovered that work for you! My community can only grow by sharing the experiences and helping one another out, so please leave a comment, leave a tip, let me know if any of these tips are useful and/or currently being employed by you!

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Looking for more strategies to help you set yourself up for weight loss success? Click here to learn my 5 strategies to achieve your fitness goals… without breaking a sweat!