Eating out can mean so much more than just having a meal. Everyone has their own reasons why they enjoy dining in a restaurant, picking up takeout, or stopping for fast food.
You may be thinking, “But wait… don’t they all have the potential to undermine my weight-loss efforts?”
That depends on how you approach them. You shouldn’t have to give up dining out just because you’re managing your weight.
Before you read this, ask yourself: What do you love most about dining out? Is it
Figuring out what means the most to you is the key to a satisfying dining experience. Ideally, your personal approach will let you enjoy what you love while still keeping you on track toward your weight-loss goals.
Keep in mind, not all of these strategies work for everyone. You might not know which one suits you best until you try it.
1. Make a Plan—and Save Yourself Some Stress
Staring at a menu in a restaurant or drive-through, you may feel overwhelmed or frustrated trying to find a low-calorie option. That stress not only detracts from your good time, but it can also lead to hasty decisions.
Avoid stress and impulsive food choices by planning what you’ll order in advance.
|Before you go, browse the restaurant’s website. Find nutritious options, calculate calories, and decide on your dish while you’re still at home.|
|When you get to the restaurant, don’t even look at the menu. Order what you chose at home. Don’t let the pictures distract you.|
|If you’re picking up takeout, you may be tempted to order a side dish or a drink while you wait. Avoid this by parking curbside and having the staff bring your food out to you.|
|If you’re at a restaurant with a group of people, place your order first—that way no one else’s order can make you change your mind.|
Make your choice in a nonstressful environment and move on. Don’t waste time during your meal second-guessing your good decision. You have better ways to spend your dining energy.
2. Focus on the People and the Experience
If what you love about dining out is the social aspect, then order a modest, healthy meal and put your energy into enjoying the people you’re with.
It can be easy to overindulge during social occasions, so put your food down while you’re conversing with friends or loved ones. Pay all your attention to the social aspects. Before you take a bite, take a moment to shift back to the food, and consider your level of fullness each time. When you focus on your friends, the restaurant atmosphere, and the thrill of having a night out without having to cook or clean up, you can avoid the trap of mindless eating.
Treat the meal as fuel to keep the conversation going. Find creative ways to entertain your dining companion or your kids. Come up with questions to ask that are unrelated to food. Share stories and play games.
Sure, the sandwich you order may not be anything to write home about. Let the people be the real, truly meaningful part of the experience.
3. Be Present With Your Food
You may be thinking, “I’m eating at this restaurant because their food is amazing. I want the rich, robust flavors I love.” If the taste is what you love most, then make that your focus. Order your favorite foods and really, truly savor them.
Don’t get distracted. Put your mobile device away. If the restaurant has a TV, sit facing away from it; if you’re at home, turn the TV off. When you pick up a meal, don’t eat it while driving. You have an opportunity to eat scrumptious food, so focus in and enjoy it. (One other reason to avoid distractions—if you’re distracted while while you eat, you may unintentionally eat more than you plan to.)
Eat smaller portions. Consider sharing an entrée with your dining companion, having an appetizer as your main meal, or asking your server to box up half of your meal before they bring it to the table. Now you won’t be tempted to overeat, and you can enjoy every bite of what you have.
Take your time. Take a moment to linger over the smell of the dish when it first arrives. Take small bites and chew slowly, appreciating the taste and texture. Making the meal last longer can help you enjoy it more, and it lets you become aware of when you feel full. If you want to go all in on a meditative approach, try mindful eating.
When you figure out what’s important to you about dining out, it can help you decide how you’ll approach it. You can feel satisfied with the experience and still come away with a sense of accomplishment about supporting your weight goals.