Tips and Tricks for Staying Healthy While Eating Out
Many of us are on a perpetual quest to diet, to lose weight, to fit into clothing that probably went out of style ten years ago. Over the years, it has been humbly suggested by more than one health guru that the only way to make a real difference is not to diet, but to make some lifestyle changes that will have a lasting impact on how you view your dining habits and your health in general.
It’s fairly simple to make these changes in your home – out with the bad, in with the good – deleting junk food from your dietary vocabulary and introducing fruits, veggies and low-cal snacks to have on hand so you won’t be tempted. But what happens when we go out into the real world? Dining out can be hazardous to your new habits if you’re not fully prepared. We’ve asked some “real world” gals who are current and former Weight Watchers members to give some tips that have worked for them over the years when presented with the temptations of dining out with friends.
Food for Thought
“I go out to eat for the fellowship instead of the food,” says Vickie Grathen. She suggests to “plan ahead” and says, “I go for salad. I don’t do drinks, and if I do dessert, we share, and I only have a bite or two.”
Instead of a high-fat, high-calorie treat that you’re bound to regret later, Vickie also suggest fresh fruit for dessert if you do choose to finish your meal with something sweet.
Kathy Gruver also enjoys salad, but suggests that you always skip the cheese and add fruit if it is available. “I plan ahead, too,” she says. “I order first and stick to my order, [and am not] influenced by others. I try to drink water before I go, or fruit, to make me feel full. I also add lemon and Splenda to water to make me feel refreshed.”
Deborah Onyon has a plan, too. “I almost always have an idea of what I am going to order before I sit down. I'm not impulsive and generally try to make the healthier choice even under the pressure of dining out. I never just wing it. That makes for bad choices,” she warns.
Another major suggestion she has is about our liquid calorie intake. “We don't realize how many calories are in drinks. For my coffee, I usually bring my own organic creamer or have it in my cup. I do not drink soft drinks because they are all poison, and I used to be an addict, so I know you can change. Soft drinks are just a chemical potpourri. I've learned to drink iced tea without sugar.”
She agrees with the dessert sharing policy that Vickie has, too. “The first bite is the memorable one, so if possible, stop after that first bite and give the rest away.”
Swapping out one food for another is a great idea. Sometimes alternatives are available that you might not even have known about, so always ask the wait staff to check with the chef in case there are healthier choices than what the menu shows. Jennifer Lemler, sous chef and head chef at Fernwood Botanical Gardens Café has some great ideas:
“Some easy things would include getting mustard on a sandwich instead of mayo, and choose a light salad dressing or oil and vinegar,” Lemler suggests. “Try a salad or wrap instead of a burger or fried chicken sandwich. Choose soup or salad instead of fries or chips. Vegan and vegetarian options are often healthier. Lowering dairy and saturated fat content is a big one. Using things like balsamic vinegar, pesto and hummus to add bold flavors without adding a lot of unhealthy fat is something I like to do at my place.”
Lemler also realizes that sometimes vegetables can be boring, but she’s quite adept at putting together something fantastic to make you forget you’re eating them because your meal is so heavenly. “Honestly, I am always trying to find ways to make veggies more desirable,” she says. “For example, adding a thick slice of tomato to a burger while leaving off the cheese and mayo helps lower the calorie count by over 100 while adding moisture and nutrients.”
Just by swapping out a few simple things, like mustard instead of mayo, or broth-based soup instead of cream-based – like Kathy is fond of doing – can help you save hundreds or even thousands of calories a week. If you plan ahead, don’t drink your calories, and swap out less healthy options for more filling, low-fat and low-calorie options, you can make a big difference in your lifestyle in almost no time. One thing all the girls agree on – avoid fast food if at all possible, and, if you are completely stuck and have no other option, definitely choose a salad. Greasy, fried, salty foods will immediately combat all of the good choices you’ve made all week long, so don’t fall into the trap. Keep some healthy snacks in your purse for just such occasions, so you can skip the fast food and eat something fulfilling and good for you.