Ever since I moved to New York, I’ve had an excuse not to cook. My kitchen is too small, I’m too tired after work, cooking for one isn’t that fun, etc. The bottom line is I just love dining out. I love checking out new restaurants and trying the craziest thing on the menu. I’m also a huge fan of sharing everything as it adds another layer to the culinary and social experience. There’s nothing better than getting a taste from each category on the menu and chatting about your favorites. Cooking is definitely the healthier option, but I’m not quite ready to sacrifice my L’Artusi reservations.
When dining out, I never understood why people order something and ask for multiple substitutions. You probably shouldn’t order the cobb salad if you don’t want three quarters of the ingredients. Perhaps try the chopped salad instead. I never thought I’d be one of those picky eater types, but this is now me. It’s not because I don’t like the taste though; it’s because I’m eating more whole, unprocessed foods. And, this dietary change carries over into my love for dining out.
It can be challenging to eat healthy when you’re not in your own kitchen, using your organic Grade AA butter or your organic extra virgin coconut oil. So, here are some tips to hitting the restaurant scene in a healthier way.
- Ask questions (but not too many). It’s ok to ask a question or two about how something is prepared or if something can be substituted. Go for grilled instead of fried and a baked potato instead of fries. Slight alterations are usually no big deal. Just try not to recreate the menu.
- Don’t eat the bread. If they don’t bring bread to the table, don’t ask for it. If your dining partner requests it, try not to eat it. White bread contains refined grains, which are a major contributor to obesity in this country. If you can decrease your intake, you will start shedding the pounds. Also, if you fill up on bread, you won’t have room for the more nutritious courses on the way.
- Ask for the sauce on the side. Some sauces have hidden ingredients including sugar, gluten, soy, etc. Asking for it on the side will help limit your intake of these hidden items. I know this sounds like it eliminates the fun of a dish, but many restaurants tend to over sauce their dishes anyway.
- Throw in a side of veggies. Most people don’t eat nearly enough fruits and veggies during the day. They should make up the majority of your plate and ordering a side of steamed broccoli or spinach will contribute to this count.
- You don’t have to clean your plate. This is called portion control. Some restaurants just have a different perspective on meal size. You should eat until you’re satisfied and then push the plate away or have it taken away, even if others haven’t finished yet. Get it to go and you have tomorrow’s lunch.
- Skip the dessert. It’s always best to avoid the Triple Decker Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream. But, you don’t need to totally deprive yourself of something sweet. Once you get home, enjoy a piece of fruit or a small piece of dark chocolate.
- Avoid fancy cocktails. If you’ve had a long week and want an alcoholic beverage, keep it simple. Opt for a glass of wine or a vodka soda. Pass on those sugary cocktails containing flavored liquors, syrups, etc.
- Don’t overdo it. You made the decision to be social on a Saturday night. So, try not to be too dramatic about your choices and draw attention to them. Do what you can and what you are comfortable with based on the situation. Feeling isolated at the table defeats the purpose of dining out with others.
My rule of thumb is to be super healthy when I’m on my own. Whether I’m picking up lunch at Whole Foods or I’m cooking, which I’m trying to do more often, it’s easier to eat organic, unprocessed foods when you control your own food sources. If you stick to this routine, you won’t feel guilty bending a rule or two while out for dinner. These tips will help guide you when you’re taking the night off.
It’s definitely tough being the picky eater when you’re out with your friends, co-workers, significant other, etc. You’d be surprised though; most people want to be healthier. So, they may inquire about your little tricks and follow suit. Or, they may not. Either way, they will most likely respect that you are not only eating healthier at home, but also when out on the town.
So, don’t have reservations about being healthy at restaurants. Make some healthy reservations tonight!