And then I make my mistake.
My eyes wander across the table to my husband’s plate: Filet mignon – Oscar style, smothered with Bernaise sauce and topped with crab cake and asparagus. Garlic mashed potatoes oozing in butter. Hot, fresh sour dough bread, and a Caesar salad (with croutons and lots of dressing.)
I look back at my plate. Sigh.
This very predicament has been the undoing of many resolves to eat healthier. Sometimes the moment we “cheat” can become the moment we turn the corner on healthy eating and never look back…at least not until the next round of New Year’s resolutions set in.
Is it possible to eat delicious food when eating out, and still stick to your health commitments? Absolutely. I do it every weekend. Here are some of my top tips for healthy eating out…and my first one is to avoid doing what I just described.
Keep your eyes on your own plate. (I sound like such a mother, don’t I?!!) Don’t compare apples to oranges. Your healthy meal is always going to pale in comparison to that succulent entree dripping in butter and salad dressing. Just remember that your meal is a different kind of delicious – and one that will leave you feeling lighter, more energetic, and happier with yourself after you leave the restaurant.
Know the menu before you go. Half of the fun of eating out is the anticipation of the food. Most restaurants have an online menu so you can easily know the light options ahead of time. And if there aren’t any…well then you can budget your calories earlier in the day so you can afford to indulge, or you can select a different restaurant. But the key here is to build up the food experience in your mind so that you are looking forward to your meal. We fantasize about our favorite steak or cheesecake and that’s what makes the actual eating of it so great. Employ that same technique with healthy food.
Another advantage of checking out the menu before you go is the chance it gives you to pick another restaurant if it really looks as though there isn’t anything available that isn’t dripping in butter or cream sauce. There’s nothing worse than arriving at a restaurant and having to compromise or try to make yourself satisfied with the house salad.
Don’t be afraid to special order. I’ve learned to be unapologetic when I ask for dressing on the side, steamed veggies instead of sautéed, or honey mustard instead of mayo. I’ve never encountered a server who is unwilling to accommodate, but even if I did, I wouldn’t eat something I didn’t want to for fear of inconveniencing the restaurant. After all, I’m the customer! I like to boast that I can eat anywhere- from fast food to Italian to good ole’ American style. I’ve just learned how to use less bun, fat free condiments, and request that foods not be cooked in oil or butter.
Have a to-go box brought with your meal. Portion sizes in restaurants are ridiculous! Immediately transferring half of your meal to a to-go box will allow you to finish everything on your plate (if that brings you satisfaction), leave the restaurant feeling comfortably full instead of overstuffed, and provide an instant (and healthy) lunch for you the next day. It’s a win/win/win!
This final tip will surprise you…
If You really want it, order it. This bit of advice reflects some recent personal growth. I have found that when I deprive myself of something that I really desire, I overindulge when the self-control finally wears down. While the majority of the time I really do enjoy a lighter entrée, there are those moments when nothing but a big thick piece of bread or some hot cheesy pasta will do. When my body is adamant about what it wants, I am learning to listen to it. But it is also important to recognize when your body doesn’t want any more of it. Recognize how full you like to be, and stop when you get there – even if the food still tastes good.
For these and other healthy eating tips, be sure to check out my new cookbook, Healthy Eating The Happy Gal Way. More than a cookbook, it is a guide for helping you know how your body works with food, how to make healthy eating easy, and of course a whole lot of delicious, healthy recipes – including snacks and healthy desserts. Click HERE for more information.
**Image by Sandrine Hudgens of creoleartphotography.com