Trying new restaurants and visiting old favorites is one of my most enjoyable activities – with my hubby, family, friends etc. Living in New York means I have access to some outstanding places to eat, and everyday a new one is popping up. You absolutely don’t have to swear off restaurants forever or feel nervous about eating something from someone else’s kitchen while on the path to healthier eating. In fact it’s the perfect way to reward all of your own hard work in the kitchen and it’s a great way to be social, take a break and have a date night. I grew up in my father’s restaurant and when he was not cooking for us there or at home, we were out enjoying other people’s delicacies. It was a great way for us all to get new inspiration for recipes and sit back and enjoy the talents of other chefs. I could NEVER give up my restaurants but I have learned that I can still stay on the path of clean and nutritious eating!
Many people who do my detox and lifestyle program feel very anxious about going back into ‘the real world’. I never leave anyone hanging and continue to provide support and tools so that the changes they have embraced work for them long after the program is over. Dining out is a part of life and I never want anyone to feel nervous about eating outside of your own kitchen. Whilst home-made is best, it’s not realistic to think that you will always be eating out of your own kitchen. And besides, it’s nice to let someone else do the cooking sometimes. So here are some of top tips for eating out so you can still stay clean and feel in control even after you have taken the apron off and stepped out of your own kitchen.
My Top Dining Out Tips:
- Have a huge glass of water before you head out for dinner – that way you are not drinking WITH your meals, as we know this dilutes digestive enzymes and causes indigestion, bloating and gas.
- Check the menu ahead of time so you have an idea of the clean choices are available. Most restaurants have their menu available on-line.
- Be selective about where you eat out, if possible.
- Eat something light before you go. Never go out ravenous, especially for dinner. Have a 1/2 of a green smoothie, a green juice, a small green salad or some non-starchy veggie sticks with a tablespoon of hummus to take the edge off your appetite. That way you’ll be less inclined to grab the bread basket and snack on other less than ideal choices that are often on the table when you sit down.
- Say no to the bread basket. Sorry, but this sets you up to crave more bread and carbs which makes it harder to have a healthy meal and these are just empty calories. Ask your waiter not to bring the basket – if it’s not there you can’t eat it. If others at the table do want to enjoy the bread, engage in conversation and keep distracted, focus on the menu and what you will be ordering.
- Enjoy your meals simply – natural with clean seasoning and flavors such as, olive oil, lemon, garlic and fresh herbs. Let the main ingredient stand out and not be drowned in sauces and fattening dressings. Or ask for the sauce on the side so you can drizzle and control amounts. They are often hidden with sugars, salt, fats, gluten and dairy.
- Eat healthy options first. Fill your plate with green vegetables, non-starchy carbs and leafy salads. When you nourish your body with these to begin, you will be less likely to be tempted with unhealthy cream and starchy laden dishes. Always begin with a salad as this is filling and nutritious and provides you with a healthy dose of enzymes to enhance digestion.
- If you crave carbs then enjoy a sweet potato or some brown rice but try to keep away from high glycemic grains and foods that spike your blood sugar and send you crashing soon after. Combine your carbs with healthy fats to mitigate blood sugar spikes.
- Ask questions about how the meal is prepared, and request for it can be prepared in a way that you want – for example, grilled. Waiters today are accustomed to these kinds of requests. You are not being rude, you are simply taking care of yourself, and after all you are paying for the meal. Just be courteous and explain that you can’t eat certain foods and have a preference for it to be prepared in a different way. You will be surprised how accommodating restaurants will be if you just ask nicely 🙂
- Always consider portions. Your ability to judge and control portion size is the key to ditching those diets forever. In general restaurant portions are way too big, sometimes even 3-5 servings per meal!! One feels compelled to finish what’s on one’s plate because it tastes so good and you have paid for it. Share a main with someone or order two appetizers which is generally a better way to control portion size. Some restaurants even do half portions for certain meals… and then there is always the option of the kiddie size meal!
- Beware of mixed cocktails and other fancy alcoholic drinks. Mixed cocktails are delicious, we all know that BUT they are very high in sugar and empty calories and they can stimulate your appetite. Stick to soda or mineral water with a splash of vodka and fresh lemon/lime juice if you must have a little something. It’s my go-to drink when I have one.
- If you decide to have dessert, order one for the table with extra spoons. A mouthful or two as opposed to a whole dessert will do the trick and you won’t feel deprived!
So there you have it, eating out and staying clean is simple when you are armed with some tips and tools. Stick to my 80/20 plan for life and you’ll truly be able to have your cake and eat it too 🙂