Eating out doesn't mean eating bad. When you decide to enjoy a meal at a restaurant, be aware of the little lies we tell ourselves, and follow the rules to live by for a happier, healthier life.
Here's the scenario: You pick up your friend, significant other or spouse and drive to a special spot together: Table for two. Candlelight. Ambiance. View of the ocean. Great opportunity to enjoy an amazing meal and conversation. The waiter brings over a basket of bread...Here's when the little lies start to pop up. Ask yourself if these sound familiar:
- I have to eat the bread before the meal because it's on the table.
- I'm going to order a salad to lose weight and be healthy.
- Because I'm eating out, I can cheat.
- I can't order it a special way, because they won't do it.
- I don't want to be an annoying customer.
- I'm depriving myself if I don't order what I want.
- I have to have dessert because it would be wasteful not to eat it.
These lies we tell ourselves are total non-sense. But yet they fool us into a trap of eating unhealthy foods, and allow sleep-deprived chefs to decide what goes into our bodies. Here are a few rules to live by. Adopt them and enjoy yourself!
Rules to Dining Out
The most important rule is to understand that you are in control of the choices you make regarding what you eat. It doesn't matter what's on the menu, what the waiter says, how you feel or what the situation is. You are still in control of choosing to eat right.
Salads Don't Always Equal Health
Often we fool ourselves into thinking that, "if I eat a salad, I'll lose weight and be healthy." But then we add Ranch dressing, fried chicken, croutons, bacon, bread sticks. Some of these salads have more than 1,000 calories! Look for "Daniel Plan Approved" ingredients. And always ask for the dressing on the side, that way you control what goes into your body.
Mix and Match
Look on the menu for Daniel Plan Approved ingredients you can mix together. I was recently at a House of Blues, and I ordered a Vegetable salad and added chicken with the dressing on the side. It was great and the waiter didn't mind at all.
Ask for the Nutritional Guide
Pay attention to the nutritional guide. Most restaurants, especially those that have more than 19 locations, offer a printed overview of the nutritional profiles on their menus. Review it and make a smart decision.
Don't Drink Your Calories
Just because you're out, doesn't mean you have to drink a sugary alcohol drink. The alcohol will fool you into thinking you are hungry and the dessert tray will be more appealing. Opt for a sparkling water or hot green or herbal tea.
Get the Sauce on the Side
Whatever you order, get the sauce on the side. Whether it's meat, salad or any other dish, get the sauce and dressing on the side. You want to be in control of your nutrition at all times. You'll be surprised that foods grilled or prepared without sauces are delicious and the sauces add a twist, instead of being the primary flavor.
The Waiter (and Restaurant) is There to Serve You
The restaurant wants your business and repeat visits. The waiter wants a big tip and will do almost anything to help you feel completely satisfied with your meal. So don't be afraid to ask for what you want, whether it's on the menu or not. Also, the waiter has inside knowledge of the menu items, so ask what's the healthiest and best items that day or night.
Appetizers: Start with Protein
The worst is bread or fried items. Instead, start with appetizers that are protein rich. A few examples are: Ahi tuna, hummus with vegetables or shrimp cocktail (with very little sauce).
When Asked, Just Say No
Would you like a drink? Can I supersize it for less money? Do you want bread? Can I bring you more bread? Can I get you another? These are typical questions every waiter is instructed to ask. The general rule is if it is not on your plan, SAY NO. If they are offering a discount, STILL SAY NO.
Don't feel deprived, just choose healthy and delicious alternatives. Strawberries or blueberries are sweet delicacies and totally healthy (this does not mean blueberry cheesecake or strawberry ice cream).
We want you to live longer by being healthy. What path do you want to be on? Now, if you absolutely must eat a high-calorie dessert, order one and split it.
Beware of "Healthy" Places
Just because a restaurant may promote itself as healthy on the outside, it doesn't always mean it's healthy on the inside. Look at the nutritional guide.
Fast Foods in a Pinch
Sometimes there are only a few options and fast food restaurants fit the bill. Here are my personal fast foods when I have no other choice:
- Jack-in-the-Box -- Chicken Fajita Pita
- Carl's Jr. -- BBQ Chicken Sandwich: Order without BBQ sauce, add mustard.
- McDonald's – Grilled Salad Southwest with no tortilla strips, no cheese, Paul Newman low-calorie vinaigrette dressing.
- Wendy's -- Cup or bowl of chili. It has way too much salt, but if you're stuck, it's a decent alternative with a salad. But it's not your friend.