In honor of my busy schedule and all the eating out I’ve been doing I’m editing and republishing this post I wrote in 2010. I needed the reminders.
The boys and I out to eat this Sunday at a local restaurant.
I eat out. There, I said it.
What can I say? I’m a working mom married to a fast food junkie. I do my best to cook most evenings. I enjoy cooking. I like knowing what goes in my meals and in my family. And there is no doubt a big part of my 70-pound weight loss was learning how to cook lighter and healthier. GreenLiteBites was/is my outlet to share what I was/am learning.
However, I live in the real world, and in the real world it’s just not possible to cook every night. In the real world you get stuck in traffic after work not getting home until 7 p.m. In the real world you forget to defrost something. In the real world your significant other and children don’t like what you want to make, they’d rather have burgers or “fried chicken from the old man on the bucket” (exact quote from the 4-year-old TONIGHT.) In the real world, sometimes you just don’t want to mess up the kitchen or, better yet, clean up the kitchen just to cook. In the real world, sometimes, YOU just want to be waited on.
Early in my weight-loss journey, I decided that if I was going to lose weight I had to do it on my terms. I tried so many times in the past to lose weight by extraordinary means that weren’t sustainable long term and guess what … it didn’t work. Or it did but I gained back everything and then some.
Nope. not this time. I needed to learn to navigate this real world we live in and so far I’ve been successful. I’ve been maintaining that loss for 4 years!
So here they are my 10 Eating Out Strategies for the ‘Real World’
- 10. Ask for what you want
- This seems quite obvious to me, but I realize some people are fearful to do so. I actually had a conversation with a college student who said “I wish I could ask them to make switches at restaurants.” I’m like, “umm, yeah, you CAN! Have you ever tried?” She genuinely looked shocked when I told her I do it all the time and that most restaurants will accommodate. It never hurts to ask. Ever.
- 9. Always say “no butter”
- It’s on the veggies. It’s on the buns. It’s on the potatoes. It’s EVERYWHERE! I don’t think it’s that big of a deal but these calories add up and fast. Plus I think sometimes the butter takes away from the food itself. Since reducing my butter intake, a small amount is all I need, if any. So save yourself the calories and simply say no butter. If they give you a hard time, tell them you are lactose intolerant. Works every time.
- 8. Always ask for dressing on the side
- You can do the fork trick if you want (dip the the fork in the dressing before taking a bite of salad) or simply pour on your own. Either way you will use a ton less then letting them dress the salad for you. Like the butter thing, you’ll start to get so used to less dressing that when you forget to ask for it on the side the amount they put on it will shock you.
- 7. Double veggies
- At most restaurants you get two sides. A starch and a vegetable is typical. Most times I tell them to skip the potato/rice/noodles/whatever and simply double up on vegetables. Just be sure to tell them to skip that butter!
- 6. Reduce the amount of bread you consume
- Notice I said reduce not eliminate. Sometimes you just want bread but there are simple ways to reduce it. Some people remove the top of their burgers or sandwiches. I’m more of a ripper. I rip off most of the bun as I eat it leaving just enough to hold it together. When I get a wrap there is usually a flap of miscellaneous wrap that is unnecessary. I rip it off. If there is bread offered at the table I either send it back or have a piece and do the double veggie thing. It’s all about compromise for me.
- 5. Share!
- Split an appetizer and an entrée with a significant other. Get one order of fries for the table and split it with the family. Want dessert? Cool. Share it with friends. Most items are big enough for at least 2, if not more. Plus I’m always satisfied after a bite or 2 when I don’t make things off limits.
- 4. Always get a small
- I don’t care what it is. There is rarely is a reason to go any bigger. Smalls are the old large — I think we forget that. Ice cream? Geesh — go kid-sized and it’s usually the perfect amount. Which reminds me, always ask if there is a kid’s size. Many places have them but don’t advertise.
- 3. Have defaults
- In 2005, when I started my blog and weight loss journey, I wrote up my Fast Food Options page. I researched our normal go-to spots and equipped myself with defaults. I don’t even look at the menus anymore. There is no question what I’m going to get. It removes all pressure.
- 2. Broth-based soups
- Soups are lifesavers but you have to stick to the “brothy” ones, not the creamy ones. Out with friends and everyone wants an appetizer? Get soup. You don’t feel like you are missing out and think of the calorie difference between a bowl of chicken noodle and an order of mozzarella sticks!
- 1. Skip the cheese/mayo/creamy dressing/sour cream/etc.
- Or severely reduce them by asking for them on the side. Again this comes down to additional calories that are just not needed. A burger is a burger without cheese. You may like these things and that’s fine but a little bit goes a long way.
There you have it, 10 Eating Out Strategies for the ‘Real World’ from someone who just finished her grilled chicken breast and baked beans from KFC. I splurged on half a biscuit and split some potato wedges with the family. Not bad for a fast-food dinner. Not bad at all.
You are not in an all-or-nothing situation (it took me 15 years to figure that out). Just because you are going to eat out doesn’t mean all bets are off. Simply order smart, enjoy your meal and have NO REGRETS.