TGIF: Dining Out Strategies

It’s the weekend (yea!), and for many of us that means going out to eat with our friends or families.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to prepare more elaborate meals at home than I eat when I am out at restaurants, usually just ordering a simple grilled entree and often splurging on a (shared) dessert. It’s kind of boring, I know … and someday I’d like to get to the point where I can order something off the menu “as is” without any substitutions. But with the exception of Rock Creek Restaurant in Bethesda, Md., I’ve yet to find a restaurant whose entire (and I mean entire) menu is healthy and truly desirable “as is.”

That said, here are some tried and true tips I’ve come up with over the years that have worked for me that aren’t too restrictive or over-the-top OCD.

1. Check out the menu ahead of time so you know what you’re in the mood for and can find the healthiest (and tastiest) option.

2. Order first, so you’re not swayed by others and their impulsive choices.

From a weight loss perspective, we all know to limit your wine intake, ask for your meat or fish grilled dry (blah blah blah) request your vegetables steamed with no butter and no oil, (you’d be surprised how many restaurants steam their veggies only to drench them in butter), to halve your portion and to share dessert. They’re tried and true strategies, as well.

In case you’re wondering, I do all of the above. In fact, my friends tease me that I am like Sally from “When Harry Met Sally” when I order, being as picky and particular as I am. But the truth is, if I am paying for a good meal, I want it prepared how I want it prepared, the chef be darned!

However, I haven’t decided yet whether or not my dining out strategies qualify as “disordered” behavior …

As a Libra, I see both sides of the coin. On the one hand, I could argue “yes”, since, after more than four years of watching my weight, calories are always on my mind, I know the Points values of pretty much everything by now and, admittedly, I do tend to order based on what I’ve already eaten that day. If I’ve had a lighter food day and exercised, I am more apt to “splurge” a little. If it’s a surprise meal out that I hadn’t “budgeted” for…then maybe I’d order differently.

But on the other hand, I could just as easily argue “no”, because a naturally thin woman (i.e., read as “non-disordered-eater”) would probably also choose the grilled salmon salad too if, for example, for lunch, she had eaten a cheeseburger and fries. As Dr. Beck notes in her book, The Beck Diet Solution, naturally thin people seem to have an internal balacing system which helps them make decisions without dwelling and agonizing over them. What a novel concept!

In the end, dining out is intended to be a pleasurable experience, regardless of what you order; it’s about the fabulous company, not the fabulous food. Cheers!

How about you? Do you think this is disordered eating behavior, or just smart, logical dining out “rules”? How has dining out changed for you since you began your weight loss journey?

3 thoughts on “TGIF: Dining Out Strategies

  1. It’s a slippery slope.

    If you make dining out an occasion (max once a week, and at a handsomely priced locale), then I think 1-2 glasses of good wine, and simple choices (two apps — soup and salad — or grilled fish and veggies — hold the fries or starch — prepared as the chef wants them prepared) plus a reasonable dessert (think fruit based and portion controlled) is within the realm of healthy.

    however if dining out is more common for you, then I think more caution has to be practiced (entree ordered sans oil/butter, no dessert, no booze).

    I’m a NYer currently and when I first moved here, I was eating out all the time and didn’t practice much caution. I also gained 10 lbs. go figure.

    now I try to cook most meals and take lunch from home. I do eat out at least once a week with friends. I have struggled with this as I enjoy my own food and am more comfortable with “safe” choices. But this is life, and life would be no fun without friends and good food. and it certainly would be no fun with wine.

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