Eating out for a change or taking a break from the kitchen routine is both fun and social. As a practitioner of clinical nutritionist, I have come across my patients who are relatively careful about the choice of food at social or family outings but later rue for hogging without control.
Generally they are a confused lot about what to order and how to choose the right food at a party. Studies have shown that eating out can lead to over-eating and poor choice of food.
Following are few tips to help in selecting the correct food at a social gathering at your favorite restaurant, even without compromising on your health goals:
Ideally, reduce your number of outings. Restrict between one or two meals a week. It would be a brilliant idea to check the menu on the website even before visiting the restaurant, so you can plan what to order. Choosing the type of food before you arrive makes it easier to avoid snap decisions which you might feel guilty later, as it happens normally.
When you know the healthy choices are limited,eat some healthy snack even before you arrive at the spot. Like a burger café might not offer any healthy choices. A low calorie snack like roasted Chana or yogurt could make you feel full and limit the intake of high calorie junk at such restaurants.
Make it a habit to drink water before and during your meal. Ideally, replace sugary cocktails like margaritas, pina colada or juices with plain water to avoid additional calories.
In social situations guests spend time chatting with each other and eating out is no exception which takes low priority for a moment. Be first to order so that your decisions or choice of menu is not influenced by others in the group. It should always be a matter of choice.
Initially, go for salad or clear soup before ordering any other dish on the menu. Tossed salads, boiled salad, lemon coriander soup, green salad with separate salad dressing etc. are good choice. This can be followed by healthy snacks, which could be barbecued chicken, grilled fish, steamed momos, stir fried/barbecued mix veggies. Limit the desserts, instead, go for black coffee or fruits would be a better choice.
Sharing a huge portion size dish is always a better idea viz., sizzlers biryanis or burgers. Alternately, order for smaller portions or you can also request the waiter to wrap up excess portion in ‘take home’ containers, thereby avoiding wastage.
Eating out should always be a moment to enjoy. An event to meet family, friends and catch up with good times. So, by giving less importance to eating try to shift your attention to enjoying with the gathering. Therefore, eat slowly, chew thoroughly and relish the food to ensure less calorie intake and avoid overeating.
Generally guests underestimate portion sizes at free- to- eat buffet meals. You should not forget that you don’t have to eat everything that has been spread out on the buffet table. You can pick 2 or 3 of your favorite dishes of your choice. Another simple technique to avoid overeating is taking a smaller plate to eat less. But if there are only big plates available, i then fill half of the plate with Salads and vegetables…a smart choice.
Even a healthy alcoholic drink like red wine can add significant calories (1 glass about 280 Cals) to your diet. So take a small measure of alcohol, say 45 ml of vodka/ Gin/ whisky or a small glass of wine, and use low cal mixers like tonic water, lemon water or diet drinks, instead of juices or aerated sugary drinks are ideal to prevent calories.
In conclusion, a holistic look at your diet is better when on an outing. For the sake of fun and pleasure, everybody likes to eat out once in a way,without giving a second thought whether the food is healthy or not. Even if you always follow good diet and strict regimen, then occasional indulgence will not affect your health adversely. Besides, such outdoor binges are good for your soul! Just focus on mindful eating without feeling guilty and dining out would be a great getaway from mundane matters!