Tips for Dining Out

Glen Tobias, MS

Go out, enjoy and get dressed to the nines, while remembering these nine

Do you find it stressful going out to eat while trying to stick to a healthy lifestyle of eating?  If you answered “yes” you are not alone.  Food and eating have become more than just a way to stay alive. We center food on celebrations, family gatherings and use it as a way of sharing our traditions. However, changing your eating habits seems for most people to be more difficult when you are forced into social situations.   Sometimes the pressure is too much!                      

Whether you realize it or not, you are exposed to the social pressures of eating quite often. When eating out, staying on track with a healthy eating plan might be more challenging.

Restaurants know exactly how much sugar; fat and salt (the evil trinity) to add to their dishes to have us love it, finish it all and come back for more. We all crave the evil trinity, so the more control you have over the food and the better you prepare the better off you’ll be.

  1. Drink plenty of water – during and before any social occasion which most likely will serve food. It will fill you up, as well as help you to stay focused on your plan.  Water is also great for your metabolism!
  2. Plan ahead – If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.  If you know your schedule for the day includes a meal out, try to eat a little less starch (rice, pasta, potato and bread) during the day. This will save you a few calories to spend on that meal. However, DO NOT fast the whole day in preparation of the event, since your hunger will only become your worst enemy.
  3. Order at home – not literally. Get the name of the restaurant and find their menu on line. You can look it over and know exactly what you will be ordering before you ever walk in. This prevents impulse ordering or joining in on whatever anyone else is doing.
  4. Pre-eat – eat right before you go to the restaurant or event. If you arrive hungry…you will eat everything and eat it all way too quickly. An example: you will eat all the bread, order an appetizer, main dish and dessert. This is not the optimal plan so get something in your stomach to prevent this from happening to you.

A Tip: bring a whey based (not soy) protein bar on your way to go eat. This will “prime the pump”, by that I mean you will avoid excess hunger because you have just eaten. “You only have will power when you are full”.

  1. Take it slow – use this social situation to talk and make conversation before putting your hand in that bread basket!  Remember, it takes about 20 minutes for the stretch receptors in your stomach to stretch and send a chemical signal to your brain to let you know that your stomach is full. Everyone has at one point or another, eaten to pain. This usually means you were eating way too fast (usually due to excessive hunger).

Tip: eat with your non-dominant hand

Tip: “don’t pre load the fork”. So while you are chewing…don’t stab the food and ready your fork.  

These will surely slow you down and help you eat less and feel better after the meal.

  1. Special Order (even if it’s just a little) – sometimes we don’t want to draw too much attention to ourselves while ordering, but it can help in big ways.
  • Order sauces and dressing on the side to help save lots of calories
  • Nothing fried or sautéed (fancy word for frying). Vegetables should be steamed or grilled. (this alone can save over a hundred calories in oil)
  1. Take a good look before you make a decision at a buffet. When eating from a buffet, take some time to weigh all your options before you fill your plate, then select foods that fit your meal plan. Try a little first, and only eat what you like. Don’t just eat it because it is on your plate.
  2. Add some Fiber. Selecting foods high in fiber such as vegetables, whole grains and fruits with skin will make you feel fuller faster.  You’ll have less room for tempting foods later.
  3. Portions not only at a restaurant but at an event such as a wedding or dinner parties too, “When the ‘what’ is not up to you the ‘how much’ always is.”

Most of us know portion control is critical but the food tastes too good while it sits in front   of you for too long. This is a sure fire recipe for overeating. If this is the case, then really pay attention to portion control. Most restaurants serve too much food, so do not feel a need to finish everything.  If you leave enough over, you won’t have to plan dinner for the following night!

A tip: ask them bring only half the meal and wrap the other half up and take it to go…now there’s no chance of eating it all

Remember eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures and dining out helps make it even better…don’t let it become something to dread. Use these tips and have fun.

Glen’s education, a Master’s Degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University, being a board certified specialist in sports dietetics (CSSD), 23 years of experience, and down to earth manner set him apart from his peers. Most recent career highlights include Glen’s positions as the team nutritionist for the New York Jets (NFL football team); Nutritionist for Atlantic Sports Health – in Morristown, NJ; the Nutritionist for Manhattan Sports Medicine in NYC.
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