Lately I’ve been eating out a lot more frequently than usual. Maybe it’s because I’ve cleaned all the snack foods out of my pantry. It’s left mostly bare- save canned black beans, tomatoes, chicken stock, bread, cereal, and uncooked grains. No treats in sight, and I crave treats a lot. It’s probably a good thing that I don’t have any snacks around the house to munch on, but sometimes the cravings hit hard! I know a situation is dire when I’m ready to mindlessly munch on toast or cereal since there’s nothing around for me to really enjoy. In these situations, I’ve decided it’s best to go out and have a reasonable and delicious meal than to binge on something as unsatisfying and nutrient poor as a bowl of Sugar Puffs. God made food to be enjoyed, so I thought I’d share some of my favorite tips for enjoying good food! Ultimately, people who eat out often have a harder time losing weight than those who usually prepare their meals at home. It’s true, but a life without going out to eat seems sad. And a protein shake with fruit or scrambled eggs at home won’t always make the cut. So before you grab your keys and head out the door, consider these ways to stay in the moment and be a mindful eater at the restaurant! I hope that the following ideas will help you make the most of your dining experience without blowing your healthy eating plan.
Think twice before ordering
People can fall into a rut of eating the same dishes at the same restaurant, or they may say yes without thinking if a waitress suggests an appetizer. Mindful eating involves breaking those autopilot habits that we have around eating. *Bonus* Stick with an appetizer, a drink other than water, OR dessert instead of getting all the extras.
Make each calorie count
Think about what you really love to eat, and save your calorie budget to spend on those foods. Does that cheese on the burger really make it for you? If not, that’s about a hundred calories. *Bonus* Enjoy what you’re having, but eat less. Consider splitting a dish with a friend, or ordering a side of fruit instead of potato chips if you wouldn’t really enjoy them anyway.
On the side, please
Gravy, salad dressing, butter — if you can ask for something on the side, do it. Then you have control of how much you really need or want on there. *Bonus* Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want- if you’re concerned that your willpower may fail when the waitress busts out the bread basket or chips and dip, it’s ok to ask her not to bring them out.
Think before you eat
Before you dig in, take a moment to ask yourself how hungry you are on a scale of 1 to 10, and how that hunger matches up with what you’ve got in front of you. Remember, you don’t have to clear your plate. *Bonus* If you tend to clean your plate, consider asking the waiter to box up half your meal before it gets to you.
When you’re eating, really be aware of the sight and the texture and the taste of food. We go out to eat because it’s enjoyable, it’s pleasurable, it tastes good — all of that. If you’re really paying attention, maybe you don’t have to eat the whole basket of fries; you can eat just a handful. *Bonus* Enjoy everything about the dining experience! Get dressed up, have a great conversation, check out the décor of the restaurant, and have fun with whoever is keeping you company.
It can take our bodies up to 20 minutes to register the fact that we’re full — and during that time we’re often continuing to stuff ourselves. Take your time, chew your food carefully, and treat a meal as a leisurely stroll rather than a race. *Bonus* Did you drink your water? Try drinking a whole glass of water before your food comes out and remember to take sips between bites. Ask for extra lemons to give your water more flavor.
Drop the fork
While you’re eating, put your fork down for a moment and assess how you’re feeling. We get into such a habit of picking up the fork and putting food in our mouths, without even checking in with ourselves to see, ‘Am I still hungry, or am I full?’ *Bonus* If all else fails, try eating with your non-dominant hand to slow your roll.
What do you do to ensure your restaurant meal is as enjoyable as possible?