I just got back from New York City and it was such a great time. I really enjoyed getting away from my usual routine and seeing some great old friends. Most especially, I enjoyed eating out and trying foods that I cannot normally find in California. I was couch surfing with a couple of different friends so it was nearly impossible for me to eat as I normally do. I usually can control my meals and snacks by cooking or planning/prepackaging my snacks. But I could not do that here. When I’m traveling, it’s most convenient to eat out. Along with that convenience are the added temptations to order too much, eat too much, and eat poorly.
So what’s a guy to do when ordering out or eating at a restaurant? Here are some good tips to help you out!
(1) Ask for the Nutritional Information
California is the first state to pass a measure about food nutrition labeling for fast food restaurants and any chain restaurant that has 20 or more locations. (Yup, there’s an app for that!) You can see exactly how much is in your food. Use that information to choose wisely! However, not every restaurant falls into this category and posts nutritional information. In that case, ask the server about how dishes are prepared. Say yes to pan-seared, oven roasted, and steamed. Say no to pan fried, deep fried, or anything that is described as “crispy.” Just don’t interrogate your server: they aren’t personally responsible for the food. They’ll help you within reason, so be nice! (that comes from my 7+ years of experience in the restaurant business.)
(2) Order A La Carte
Sometimes, there is nothing on the menu that you can eat because everything is so greasy or the portions are just too big! So, why not create your own meal?! Order things a la carte, meaning, order items separately. For example, order some steamed vegetables, a grilled chicken breast, and a side of whole grain brown rice. If you want a baked potato, ask for it plain with all the toppings on the side. This is a great way of controlling your portions. The American Dietetic Association (soon to be the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) supports the MyPlate to teach about portion control. Long gone are the days of the Food Pyramid. MyPlate is super effective because it’s such a relatable visual. Check it out below. It provides the ideal balanced meal.
(3) Share–Family Style
As mentioned above, portions can be so big. So, order one of those gargantuan dishes and share it with a friend! This totally applies to dessert. If you want to have a slice of cheesecake, then share the dessert with your your friend and cut your share of the calories. It will make you feel less guilty for treating yourself. Ask for extra spoons!
(4) Take it To-Go
Once the entree comes, box half of your food to go. Studies have shown that we tend to eat more when there is food in front of us. Eliminate that temptation and box it up to take home. Also, you’ll have another meal for later on!
(5) Eat Lightly Beforehand
Have a light snack before lunch/dinner and curb your appetite or else it’s like going to the grocery store hungry. When ordering hungry, it feeds into our willingness to order everything on the menu. Unless you have the will power of Sir Bryan Hoss Esquire, I suggest you not go to the restaurant on an extremely empty stomach. He once resisted eating more than 1 Haribo gummy bear during an entire road trip. How? I do not know.
Don’t be scared of eating out. These are simple tips to help you, but ultimately, don’t stress out so much. If you overate last night, just balance it out with an extra tough workout today. Change it into a motivational factor. You got the cake last night. Now drop and give me 40 push ups, stat!