How To Keep To Your Diet When Eating Out

19 May

Twitter follower @sunflourhelen asked a great question recently:

How do I keep going on a diet when I have less control – like when I’m eating out with friends who aren’t dieting?

Well, this is a great question and I know eating out is a stumbling block for many people who are following diets.  Getting to a favourite restaurant and working out what’s healthy, or resisting your favourite food, can just seem like too much hard work – it’s like you have two things on a set of scales; seeing your friends, or losing weight.

Here are some tips to help you enjoy eating out, even with friends who aren’t dieting, without compromising your healthy eating too much:

  • Limit alcohol intake – alcoholic drinks are high in calories, so a simple way to consume less calories on a night out is to avoid, or limit, the alcohol
  • Limit soda drinks – again, you can easily consume several hundred calories from soda drinks on a night out.  Instead, go for sparkling water with some fruit juice or a squeeze of lemon/lime/orange in
  • Choose starter or dessert – if you have a sweet tooth, have a dessert and no starter.  And if you prefer savoury things, do the opposite.
  • Eat slowly – focus on having great conversation with your friends and eating your food slowly.  Savour the taste, texture and smell of your food – enjoy every bite without feeling guilty for eating it.  Drink water as you eat your meal, and make an effort to chew each mouthful 20 times.  All of these things allow your body the time it needs to recognise when it feels full.
  • Eat enough – stop eating when you feel full, regardless of how much food may be left on your plate.  It’s not a clever idea to purposefully waste food, but if your portion is larger than necessary there’s no problem leaving some.  Don’t take the leftovers home in a box either!
  • Order side salad – if your meal comes with a choice of bread (usually thickly coated in butter) or fries, ask for a side salad instead.  Even better, have a salad as your starter to help you fill up on healthy foods before your less healthy main meal arrives.
  • Avoid buffets – if your friends are at all supportive of your weight loss, they won’t force you to go to an all-you-can-eat restaurant.  If you do end up in one, try selecting a small plate and limiting yourself to 2 visits to the food counter.  But seriously, if your friends are so insensitive to your diet, maybe you shouldn’t be hanging out with them so much anyway.
  • Healthy main meals – some of the most healthy main meals are grilled steak, fish or chicken, and salads (without calorific dressings).  Generally, the more complicated or fancy a meal sounds, the more likely it is that it’s packed full of unhealthy calories.  Choose pork over lamb, which generally comes with a lot of fat.
  • Avoid sauces – lots of sauces are very high in fat and should be avoided or used in small amounts.  Steer clear of sauces such as Meuniere, bechamel, au gratin and hollandaise.  Mediterranean-style tomato sauces are usually a healthier option.
  • Enjoy fruit – if there’s a fruit salad or a fresh fruit platter available, enjoy this as dessert and instead of choosing a starter, as a way of cleansing your palate and adding some good nutrients to your meal.

Any sensible weight loss attempt will be a long-term lifestyle change that should be maintainable, and relaxing your normal healthy eating for a meal out shouldn’t stress you too much.  Remember that your overall calorie intake throughout the day is important, so on days when you will be eating out for a meal make the rest of your meals even healthier, and up the exercise.  These will compensate for any excesses when out.

If you have a question you’d like answering, just leave a comment and I’ll answer it in a blog post.

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