How to Order a Healthy and Delicious Restaurant Meal

restaurant dining

I remember years ago when I first started caring about the quality of my food and what I put into my mouth.  Back then I dreaded going to restaurants.  Eating out used to signify to me “get ready for peer pressure and judgment from friends and family when you choose to order that chicken breast salad.”  And so instead of going for the salad, I would choose the pool-sized plate of pasta topped with fried, battered, chicken with a cup of cream sauce drowning out the pasta just to fit in with everybody else.  Oh and then I’d indulge in whatever fruit-based dessert was on the menu.  Apple crisp a la mode?  Yep, I’ll take it.

After eating that meal, I’d literally feel horrible.  Stomach full beyond capacity, bloated and mind racing a million miles an hour with self-deprecating thoughts of how I was a fat-ass who had no willpower to eat the damn salad.    Then I’d have negative thoughts about my friends as if it were their faults that I chose the fat and sugar rich heart attack on a plate.

After about 24 hours after the calorie bomb meal, the depressing thoughts left my head and I’d vow to make the healthy choice next time.  This cycle went on before, during and a few years post-college until I finally made the choice to own up to my decisions because:

  • No one has the right to put food into my mouth.
  • Whatever I eat is my choice.
  • If the food I eat makes me feel crappy, then don’t eat it.

.Of course, these things are so much easier said than done.  It took me years to figure this out and put these ideas into action effortlessly. But, after the struggle I have now arrived!  These days when I go out to eat, there is no anxiety.  I eat what I want to eat which is usually some type of protein paired with vegetables.  If I am in the mood for dessert then I have it – usually split with friends.  No guilt.  After the meal, I am pleased and satisfied.  The next day, I go on about my business happy that I got to enjoy a social outing with friends.

Because I struggled with eating and weight for much of my childhood (I was born weighing a whopping 14 pounds) and through college, I have the personal experience to help my nutrition clients overcome their own unhealthy eating habits and self-defeating thoughts.  Sometimes they succeed.  Sometimes, the pressure is too much and they succumb.  I understand it all because it used to be me.  Now I am in a position to use my past to positively shape the present and future of people who desire to live a healthy lifestyle.  And my clients have seen success in the form of healthier eating habits, reduced prescription medication needs, fat loss, better sleep, more energy, and a positive outlook on life.   If you can identify with any of the above and have had enough with the failure and are ready to do better, eat better, and feel better then contact me today.  Let’s do it!

If you struggled with restaurant meals like I once did, the next time you are out eating with friends and family, the following tips can help you choose a healthy meal successfully in which satisfies your tastebuds.  These tips are what helped me to get to the happy, anxiety-free place where I can now enjoy restaurant outings without fear.

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Tips on how to order a healthy and delicious restaurant meal that you’ll feel good about before, during and after your dining experience

1.       Find out what restaurant you will be dining at, then go to their website and look through the menu.  Choose 1 – 3 viable options so that you are confident on what to get when the waiter is staring at you to take your order.

2.      Make sure that meal is composed of a protein and green vegetable at the least.  Grilled, sautéed, baked, broiled, seared are all good choices to stick to when choosing your meal.  Stay away from fried, breaded, creamed options.

3.      Remove any guilt that you may be carrying with you from the last time you pigged out at a restaurant…even if it was just last week.  This is a new day, a new outing, a new chance for you to make the right decision.

4.      Focus on the conversation with your dining mates.  Do not allow the food to take the spotlight.  When I eat out with friends I am usually the slowest eater.  Not consciously but simply because I am chatting and enjoying the conversation more than the food on my plate.

5.      Say no to the free bread basket and keep on passing it on…away from you.  Save room for the main meal that you will (most likely) pay out of pocket for.  Notice how when at restaurants, cafes, office meetings, or Costco demo tables the free food is usually processed, sugar-filled carbohydrate-rich options you know you shouldn’t be having no way.  They do that on purpose: those foods are highly addictive and will leave you wanting more.  If it’s free and processed, just say no thank you.

6.      Drink water!  Add lemon to the water for a little flavor and to aid digestion.  Drink the water mostly before and after the meal.   Stay away from sugary drinks.  And if it’s an alcohol type of gathering, then stick to dry wines or vodka tonics or spirits on the rocks for minimal sugar intake. Limit your drinking to 1-2 servings.

7.      The next day, plan to workout at medium to high intensity to help sweat out the excess sodium restaurant meals have been known to contain. I love to sweat it out in yoga or bootcamp class.

8.      Be grateful.  Gratitude is everything.  Focus on the goodness of life and go forward empowered to be the best you today, tomorrow, and onward.

 Photo credit:  RF photos

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4 Tips on Surviving 4th of July Weekend Without Guilt

fireworks

You know summer is in full effect when it’s triple digit temperature at 10pm at night.  That’s been the case lately across many cities here in California.  Despite the heat wave, we can’t help but be excited about the 4th of July weekend which translates to  extra days off from work,  time to relax, outdoor BBQs, backyard picnics, fireworks, time spent in the sun with friends and family.  Who can ask for more?

This year Independence day hits on a Thursday which means most of us will be put in situations where scrumptious food and tasty drink options will be vast and available Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  You may enjoy it during the celebration but come Monday morning as you are getting ready for work in front of the mirror, feelings of guilt may creep in as you recall all the gorging that took place only a few days prior.

It doesn’t have to be that way.  Think about the festivities that are in store this weekend and come up with an action plan that will allow you to eat and have fun without the guilt. Below are some tips on how to survive the 4th of July weekend without an ounce of guilt.

Know who your allies are

BBQs, picnics, and summer gatherings in general, can be filled with foods that can sabotage your clean eating plan.  However, if you identify the ally foods available and focus on filling your plate with these options as much as possible, then you can minimize the damage while enjoying yourself.  Ally foods include:

–          Protein:  grilled meats

–          Vegetables:  grilled, green, raw, salads (not mayo based)

–          Fruit: all except the fruit pies (treat fruit as your dessert)

–          Sauces:  mustard, olive oil based vinaigrettes, pesto sauce

Tread lightly in enemy territory

Enemy territory describes the foods that can sabotage your clean eating habits and cause your waistline to expand.  Be cautious around pasta and mayo based salads as these are filled with processed carbohydrates and rancid fats.  It’s easy to overindulge in these types of foods with little satisfaction.  If you must indulge, keep your plate ratio filled with 20% or less in enemy foods and 80% or more in ally foods. 

80-20 rule

Enemy foods include:

–          Mayo based salads

–          Pastas & anything breaded

–          Pies, cookies, cakes, sugar-rich desserts

–          Sauces:  BBQ and ketchup can have high fructose corn syrup.  Bring your own or stick to mustard, olive oil based vinaigrette, lemon and pesto based sauces.

Be the most friendly person

The person doing the most talking at the gathering is usually doing the less eating.  Be social!  Don’t hide behind your plate stuffing your face.  If anything, have a rule to limit yourself to just one plate.  Once you are done, you are done.  Spend the rest of the time striking up conversations and engaging in the crowd.  You never know who you may meet.

dwight meme

Choose your alcoholic beverage wisely

The first thing people gravitate to at a gathering are the drinks.  Beer, wine, cocktails are ice cold and plenty available for our indulgence.  But alcoholic beverages can be filled with empty calories and sugar causing more damage than the enemy foods listed above.  However, by choosing your drink of choice wisely, you can minimize the damage.

–          Cocktails:  choose low sugar options such as vodka soda or gin & tonic with a squeeze of lime.  Or spirits without the sugar rich mixes are good options as well.

–          Wine:  wine has heart health benefits especially red wines.  Choose dry options such as Merlot or Cabernet.  White wines such as Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc are also good choices.

Moscato and sweeter wines can boast 20 – 30g of sugar per glass so I advise to stay away from the sweet stuff.

–          Beer:  the gluten and wheat in beer is linked to the beer belly look.  So do yourself a favor and go for one of the above choices.  But if beer is your first choice, then stick to 1 – 2 bottles/cans.

beer wine spirits

Whatever your drink of choice, make sure to drink a cup of water with each drink to stay hydrated and to naturally reduce your intake of the alcoholic beverage. 

The tips above should help you eat and drink in a manner where you can have fun and be well without any guilt (or tighter waistband) come Monday morning.  Be safe and have a happy 4th of July weekend.

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Chika Obih is a certified holistic nutrition consultant; blogger; and founder of Soul-Wholesome Nutrition based in Oakland, CA and offers services virtually, in-person or by phone.  Chika is passionate about empowering people to take charge of their own health utilizing the power of wholesome, clean foods and fun holistic lifestyle solutions.  Contact Chika today to set up a free consultation.

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