A reader recently wrote in asking for tips when it comes to eating out. She specifically wanted to discuss eating out with friends- like for a group dinner situation where things are shared and the options are usually not the healthiest. I think this topic can be tricky, so I thought I would tackle the whole topic of eating out and provide my tips, tricks and personal suggestions.
First, lets talk about frequency of eating out. I try to eat at home and make my own meals the majority of the time. On a normal week, I eat out for lunch or brunch 1-2 times per week (usually on the weekend) and dinner is usually 1 night of take out and 1 night out for dinner. The rest of my meals are always made at home. Of course, life happens and sometimes I eat out more- I don’t want to forgo fun events just so I can eat at home, you know? Gotta live your life and enjoy yourself in the process…you can always get right back into your normal routine the next day.
I’m sure you know this by now, but eating at home really allows you to control the quality of your food and what goes into your food. Which, in turn, allows you to control your calorie and nutrient intake without any hidden excess sugar, fat or chemical ingredients you don’t want to be putting into your body. So eating at home is the best thing you can do for your body and your waistline, whether you are looking to lose weight or not!
But, for those times you do go out to eat…I think it’s important to pick a good place that sources good ingredients. Most cities have great restaurants that source their food from reliable farms and suppliers- the better the ingredients are, the better they will taste and the more your body will like them. That being said… a farm to table, organic, gluten free restaurant can still serve super heavy fried food that is still not healthy for you, regardless of how “healthy” the restaurant is. But you know that, right? If you are here reading this, I am confident you know what is good and what is not good to eat. So, let’s just get into what I typically order when I eat out!
A few hours before I go to a restaurant, I usually have a small protein snack like a hardboiled egg, a greek yogurt, 2 sriracha chicken meatballs….something small and under 100 calories that holds me over. I hate feeling SUPER hungry when I get to a restaurant because I usually end up ordering too much, eating very quickly and not liking how I feel after the fact. I bet a lot of you have been there too right?? SO, have a little something so you aren’t ravenous and can actually stay calm and enjoy yourself.
Once at the restaurant, I typically always order some type of salad- either as an appetizer or a big salad as my entree. Having a salad as an app is great because it provides you with greens and tons of nutrients, while also taking the edge off of your hunger so you don’t devour the whole bread basket. If I want more than a salad for dinner, I usually order a fish dish with veggies or a turkey burger (and I remove the bun). I don’t order the burger with no bun because I like to have a few bites with the bun, or eat it open faced- there’s something about a burger bun that just makes me happy. A few bites of it will do it and ill just put it aside after that.
Another thing I do often is order 2-3 appetizers as my entree. I’ll do a salad and then something fun with protein- it keeps my portions under control but still allows me to enjoy something I love.
Other times I just go for it, order what I want, eat it and move on with my life- we all need a little “cheat meal” every now and then! When you eat SO healthy 98% of the time, letting loose for a meal out can really make you feel more balanced. I really do love eating healthy and I don’t see it as a chore or a punishment….but from time to time I just really want two glasses of wine and some truffle fries you know? When I go out with friends, I usually just decide that it will be my cheat meal and just enjoy it without stressing.
…Now on that topic, let’s talk about going out to eat with friends.
In a perfect world, you would go out to eat with friends, order your healthy food you feel good about and your friends will admire you for making such healthy choices and follow suit. You would be a great example to an amazingly healthy group! BUT THIS RARELY EVER HAPPENS!
People tend to get SUPER judge-y when you decide to order a salad instead of a pizza at a group dinner- you become “the healthy one who’s SOOOO gooooood” by ordering the salmon salad. It’s being health shamed- is that a term? If not, it is now! I can not tell you how many times I get health shamed. I have such a great group of like minded friends who get it…but there’s always someone who decides to give you their opinion when you don’t ask for it. I’ll get an eye roll or an “ugh you’re so good, I could never do that” or a “really?? Are you on a diet….?? “. UM, IS THERE A PROBLEM??
The truth is, people who do this DO have a problem: it’s called guilt. They feel guilty that they aren’t making the good choices and they make themselves feel better about it by being all judge-y at you. The annoying thing is that people like this will always be around- there is always going to be someone who is the health shame-er. But here’s the thing: no one should ever feel ashamed of being healthy, eating healthy and choosing healthy foods over unhealthy foods.
And I find that women can be the most vicious ones when it comes to this. There’s really not much you can do about a situation like that other than suggesting some healthy options that look good on the menu. If your friends don’t share your same sense of healthy consciousness, suggest the group orders some yummy veggie dishes AS WELL AS the fries etc. Explain that you just feel better, you look better and your skin is more vibrant when you eat healthier…and if they are good friends they will understand and probably want to jump on the healthy bandwagon. What girl doesn’t want to look better and feel better?? And if this doesn’t work, maybe find some other friends who do share your same values. As I have gotten older I have discovered that you really shouldn’t hold on to friendships that don’t make you feel good about yourself. You shouldn’t have to defend the way you want to live your life, you know?
If you happen to be that person who makes a comment about someone ordering a salad: STOP. Stop doing it and instead think about why you feel the need to poke at someones healthy choices. Everyone has the right to make the choices they want to make!
Now, on the flip side…if you feel the need to say something because you suspect a friend is going too far with a “diet” or has developed disordered eating…bringing it up in front of a group at dinner is NOT a good idea. I would suggest calmly bringing it up privately, in an intimate setting and asking if they are feeling ok and need anyone to talk to. It’s such a delicate thing, but being there for a friend really can make all the difference.
OK….this has gotten a bit off topic but I think it’s important to bring up. In a world where we all want to look our best, food can be a tricky thing to deal with. I know I have had my own issues with food and I know most of us have at some point. At the end of the day, food is fuel but it is also something to enjoy. Don’t obsess over every little calorie and miss out on half of life in the process- I really wish I could tell my younger self this exact tip, to be honest.
So in conclusion, because things unravelled a bit here (HAHA!):
- Eat most of your meals at home
- Don’t arrive at dinner starving
- Start with a salad
- Have a few appetizers instead of a huge entree to make it fun
- ENJOY your meals out- then get back to eating healthy at home
- Choose GOOD foods when you eat out, whether you go for the cheese burger or the salmon salad
- Don’t let friends health shame you- if they are real friends they will applaud your healthy habits
- Explain that eating healthy makes you feel your best to any annoying health shamers
- A night of eating some fries isn’t going to kill you- enjoy yourself and you will be a much more balanced, happy person.
And with that my loves, enjoy your weekend thoroughly!