Snack beforehand – Before you even get to the restaurant, have a small healthy snack. Don’t stuff yourself but try having some water, nuts or fruit so you aren’t ravenous – just take the edge off. This will help you to resist the bread basket and olives, and to make sure your willpower isn’t compromised. Treat the snack as part of your eating out ritual.
Research the menu – Sometimes there is just too much information to compute on a menu that it may overwhelm you once you arrive. Look at the menu online before you go, decide what to eat in advance and stick to it. It eliminates any decision fatigue or anxiety and guarantees a well thought out choice. If there isn’t anything on the menu that exactly fits what you want, give them a quick call or drop them an email. Explain you’re making some changes to your lifestyle and ask them if they can tailor a meal to your requirements.
Take the waiter aside – If you cannot make contact in advance, it may not be a pre-planned visit – and you have some particularly specific dietary requirements, try approaching the waiter away from the table and other people upon arrival (that’s if the venue permits). This is best done while smiling, and being polite about — and apologising for — your tricky order. Most restaurants are used to some quite complex demands such as allergen information, specific questions about food content that they need to go away and research the answers to. Remember, lots and lots of young children with really fussy eating habits frequent many restaurants. They are absolutely used to specific requests being made. In this context they will be pleased, and relieved, that you’re only asking for a healthier option. Only you will think that you’re making a fuss.
Load up on veg – If there is nothing on the menu that works for me, I just ask them to do me a plate of grilled vegetables. I pair this with a salad and some chicken or fish and I am usually very happy with this. I’ve never had a plate of grilled vegetables as tasty as a good chef can prepare! In fact, this is the option I often go for, it’s that tasty and doesn’t compromise any of my eating plans, particularly when its included in a current goal.
Avoid unhealthy cooking methods – Choose grilled, steamed, broiled, boiled, roasted, baked or poached over fried or sautéed. Avoid anything breaded – there are better options. If it’s not obvious on the menu, clarify it with the waiter. Often, they will simply ask you how YOU want it cooked, or prepared.
Engage in conversation – Make sure to not be completely focused on what you are eating. You are there with company, so enjoy it and make the most of it.
Eat mindfully – It’s all about balance — if you want dessert, pick a lighter main, or vice versa, make it fit for you. If it’s a special occasion and you’re comfortable with your decision – take a meal off your normal eating habits. Remember, we’re recommending taking a break from your eating regime for that specific meal, not for the full day, or the weekend, or the week! Really be aware of the delicious flavours, and eat mindfully, enjoying your surroundings and the whole experience. Cut the food into small pieces, eat slowly, savour the food. This is a treat, so enjoy it!