If you’re currently following a strict diet, or if you try to eat healthy 90 percent of the time, eating out can be a constant stress and dilemma.
If it happens once in a while, go nuts! Throw your diet out the window and have a great night indulging in whatever your heart desires. But if you’re a frequent restaurant go-er—if your job demands you schmooze with clients on the regular, or if you just like going out more than cooking—here are some tips to mitigate the damage that is likely to happen.
First things first, your demands are probably going to be a little annoying to the wait staff and the cooks. Instead of feeling guilty and annoying them, tell them up front you’re going to be a little persnickety and make fun of yourself a little, but don’t worry you’ll give them a good tip at the end of the evening. Then you can joke about it instead of spending the evening with an elephant in the room.
Second, be prepared to pay a little bit more. It’s the price you pay for your health.
Tip #1: Pre-order
It’s tempting once you get to a restaurant to throw away your intentions to eat as well as possible because you’re hungry and become caught up in the moment. A good way to guard against this is to read the menu online beforehand and order in your mind before you get there.
Tip #2: Eat This, Not That
If you travel a lot and find yourself having to get lunch at, let’s say Jimmy John’s, the book Eat This, Not That (http://www.eatthis.com/mcdonalds-menu-items-ranked) is a great resource. It basically tells you what your best options are at common restaurants. For example, it breaks down every single menu item at McDonald’s.
The delicious sausage, egg and cheese McGriddle, for example, has 550 calories, and features 32 grams of fat (13 grams of which are unsaturated), 1,280 mg of sodium, 45 grams of carbohydrates (including 2 grams of fibre and 15 grams of sugar) and 20 grams of protein.
Because you don’t generally get to see an ingredient list at most places, this book gives you a better idea what you’re actually consuming.
Tip #3: Ask tons of questions and order “off” the menu
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and then adapt your meal accordingly.
Ask what kind of oil they use, for example. Ask if yours can be cooked in olive oil instead of vegetable oil. Or ask for additional vegetables in lieu of the potatoes if you’re trying to stay away from starchy vegetables.
Out for breakfast? Substitute grilled tomato slices toast or salad for hashbrowns.
In other words, be difficult. You’re paying a premium; you might as well get exactly what you want.
Tip #5: “Allergy” is a powerful word
If you’re suspicious your waiter is guessing about whether or not there’s gluten or soy in a dish, use the word allergy. Suddenly they’ll do their due diligence and return to let you know there actually is gluten in their burgers.
Tip #5: Drink your carbs
If you don’t want to be the one socially awkward non-drinker in the group, have a drink or two but eliminate carbs elsewhere in your meal.
Oh, and definitely skip the break basket!