“I always ask to switch out the bad carbs. For example, none of these should be on your plate: pasta, rice, potatoes, fries, beans, or creamy sauces.”
– Corinne Brown
Dining Out “Cor’s Way”
You don’t feel like cooking, and you don’t want to blow your healthy eating plan. What to do? My suggestion: do yourself a favor and go out to eat. It’s good to sit and have a conversation, and not have to shop, cook, and clean for a change. Sure, restaurant dining can be a challenge for your healthy eating plan. But it’s the choices you make at the restaurant that will decide whether you’ll feel gross the next day or just as fine as if you had made a healthy meal at home. Here are a few tips that work for me.
Before you embark on your restaurant extravaganza, get a peek at the menu. That will tell you if you even have a chance of getting something healthy. If the menu looks workable, the place is a valid destination. By “workable” I mean they have at least one or two healthy proteins (say, salmon or filet mignon) that you enjoy and a few vegetables or side dishes (like sauteed spinach or broccoli rabe) that are potentially healthy. That’s all that you’ll need to put together a reasonably healthy meal. Checking the menu ahead of time also allows you to arrive with a plan in mind so that you are ready to order the best healthy options.
You arrive and sit down. My first rule is simple and the most important: hands off the bread! And don’t start slugging cocktails down (particularly ones loaded with sugar!). They end up making you vulnerable to making bad choices. I know you’ll say to yourself, “I had a hard week I deserve it.” Well, that initial lousy decision leads to a cascade of bad ones. The next thing you know, your back at the gym on Monday feeling like crap and beating yourself up physically and mentally to get rid of the way you feel from your weekend binge.
Try to order an appetizer with some protein to go with your alcohol of choice, preferably a dry wine (big reds being my personal favorites). Consider something like mussels, clams, oysters, shrimp, octopus, or calamari – but nothing fried! Instead of fried look for grilled or a perhaps a chilled seafood salad – sooooo good! Try avoiding fried anything, especially anything that is fried and breaded. Raw, roasted, grilled or steamed are the better ways to go.
When ordering your entree, don’t be shy about requesting modifications to sides on a dish, as this is where you’ll find the most hidden calories. You can substitute healthy versions or alternatives, and you won’t lose flavor or satisfaction, I promise! I always ask to switch out the bad carbs. For example, none of these should be on your plate: pasta, rice, potatoes, fries, beans, or creamy sauces. Switch any and all of them out for any type of green veggie, sautéed with olive oil or, quite frankly, in butter which is better for you than processed fats and most vegetable oils. Butter from organic grass-fed sources is the best, and while many restaurant chefs don’t use it, the better ones do. Some go as far as churning their own. If you’re unsure, ask – “How is this prepared?” You’ll be surprised to learn that the best restaurants will often agree to alter the preparation of a dish to suit your requests. I repeat, don’t be shy. And if they refuse, consider not returning.
As for the protein, there are many good choices. A nice cut of meat, fish, chicken, lamb, or pork are all great choices. But hold the sauces, or if you must, have them on the side so you can get the flavor but control the volume.
Maybe the biggest question I get about dining out is, “Do you drink?” The answer is an enthusiastic yes! I love my red wine and find a meal without it is boring. In fact, a so-so meal can be completely saved by a great wine. I just make sure I never over-do it. Really. Never. Over. Do. It. Follow that rule and you can have your wine AND your healthy meal, too.
So go out and eat, drink, and be merry! (In moderation and with appropriate substitutions, of course!)
About the Author
Corinne Brown is the co-founder and co-owner of Fitness Incentive.