When I was little, eating out was about as exciting as going to Disneyland. Some restaurants had placemats with puzzles on them; others had crayons in a cup and I could sit and color while waiting to be asked, ‘and what would you like to eat?‘ No broccoli, stewed meat and potatoes placed in front of me at the dinner table…oh, no. I had my own menu – a kid’s menu with all the choices of a child’s dream: pizza, macaroni and cheese, hamburgers and fries, chicken nuggets. Man, eating out was pure heaven.
Today, eating out as an adult is a little different. More sophisticated choices await us as we look over menus that have more options than should be allowed by law. For someone trying to lose weight, eating out can also be a tad stressful as well. I used to avoid going out to eat. I resigned myself to the fact that I simply couldn’t trust myself with that kind of responsibility while dieting.
I’ve gotta tell you, it gets lonely when you isolate yourself from social situations and like it or not, food is intertwined in our social culture. It brings people together. I finally realized that I can’t hide when I know that food is around. Most likely it’s always going to be around. So, I learned some techniques that really help when I’m watching my calorie intake and heading out to a restaurant.
- Before I go to any restaurant, I go online first. If I know where I’m going to be eating, I go to that restaurant’s website and browse the menu. If I get an idea as to what I’ll order while I’m still at home, I won’t be as tempted to look at the menu once I get there. Nine times out of ten, if I don’t have my meal picked out beforehand, I’ll pick the greasiest, cheesiest item on the menu.
- Next, I check to see if the site has nutritional stats. If they do, I look over the calorie count for the few items I’m considering and pick the entrée that I feel best about. If they don’t, I go to Dottie’s Weight Loss Zone. I found this site while I was following WeightWatchers. Dotti gives nutritional stats for more restaurants than you can shake a stick at and as an added bonus, if a visitor is doing the WW program, Dotti has the points already figured out. Isn’t that great?
- Once at the restaurant, I order only water to drink. I need it. It’s filling. It’s free.
- If I can, I’ll order first. I’m more likely to stick to the original entrée that I chose before arriving at the restaurant. If my friends order before me it makes it easier to stray and say, ‘I’ll have what she’s having’.
Plan B: I try not to feel like I have to deprive myself from eating out with friends and family. It is important to be social and like it or not, food brings people together. If I end up ordering something that I know I shouldn’t, I make myself responsible enough to attempt some kind of self control. While waiting for my meal, I start drinking that glass of water that’s still on the table in front of me. When I get my entrée, I immediately cut everything in half. Sometimes I ask for a take-out box right right away and put the remaining half inside; out of sight, out of mind. Even though I’m veering from my diet, I still know that I’m literally taking hundreds of calories off my meal (I just make sure that I save that remaining portion for the next day).
Eating out this way may not make me feel carefree enough to ask for that pack of crayons so I can work on that placemat like when I was a little girl, but that’s all right. I no longer have to sit and stare at broccoli as it gets cold and wilted on my plate, either. I figure it’s a fair trade.