“My diet’s been great and then I went out to dinner…”

You’ve been doing great on your diet- learning what a portion size looks like, making sure to balance your healthy proteins with good sources of fat and whole, unprocessed carbohydrates and then…you go out to dinner. You panic. The waiter brings the bread basket and you find it hard to resist the temptation of the freshly baked (white) dinner rolls. Then your friends, without asking you first, order a round of (sugary) cocktails and a plate of (triple fried) nachos. Alternatively, perhaps you went to a more upscale joint, and your significant other is clearly disappointed that you won’t partake in the baked brie en croute as a starter and urges you to at least share the creme brule to finish. Or maybe you’re ordering take away solo and simply aren’t comfortable distinguishing what is a healthy choice and what is not!

What to do?

There are a few issues. One- how to respond to social pressures to eat and drink things you might not have opted for independently. Two- how to choose (or modify) healthy menu options.

Regarding the first scenario, the bottom line is that you’ve got to be confident in your choice to continue your healthy eating, whether in a restaurant or at home. Own it! You’ve opted to become a healthier and more fit person, and if your friends are giving you a hard time about it, I’d wonder whether perhaps they’re a bit envious of your dedication and wish they’d have stuck to their nutrition goals as well as you had!

Now, how to pick what to eat?? A few things to remember:
-You may want to order a starter or two instead of a main course if the restaurant is known for large serving sizes. Alternatively, when your plate arrives, cut your meal in two and ask to have the rest wrapped to bring home.
-Choose items with names like ‘broiled, steamed, grilled’ instead of fried.
-Stick with chicken breast, wild fish, lean beef such as filet mignon over fattier cuts like marbled steaks and ribs.
-Opt away from items with cream sauces.
-Ask for your salad with oil and vinegar on the side and leave off the cheese and croutons. Perhaps request avocado in their place.
-Keep hydrated. Have water, but don’t feel like you have to stick with plain water if you want something a bit different. Order a Pelligrino with lime or a hot, herbal tea.
-Don’t be timid about asking your server if the chef minds modifications. Yes, I am 100% that customer who nearly always orders similarly to Meg Ryan’s character in “When Harry Met Sally” (OK, I’m not THAT bad : ). If you’re pleasant about it, I don’t see why there would be an objection.
-Keeping along the same train of thought, if you don’t see any veg on the menu, ask to see if the chef has any in the kitchen he can steam and serve along side your entree. I’m thrilled when I ask and often find that there is an option of steamed broccoli or kale. (Not kidding, I genuinely get very happy about this!)
-Don’t avoid eating all day with the intention of ‘saving all your calories for dinner’. You’re setting yourself up for an over indulgence which will likely not end well.
-Ration your meal. Decide in advance where you might want to have something special and stick with it. In other words, don’t have the bread before dinner AND the huge pasta dish AND four glasses of wine AND the chocolate torte. Do you see the trend? All are processed carbohydrates. Choose one that you’ll have and that, along with your salad with balsamic vinegar, your grilled chicken with steamed veg and your post-dinner decaf espresso will balance out nicely.

Remember, eating a healthy diet needs to be something you’re going to do for the rest of your life so you need to be comfortable eating in, or out!

Go book your table!