Eating out can easily become your undoing when trying to lose weight or just eat healthily. Why? Because you get surrounded by delicious sights and smells and you tell yourself you MUST have all three courses AND finish each plate because, well, it would be a waste not to get your money's worth. But a few changed perceptions and a few different menu choices and eating out doesn't have to result in food comas, diet guilt or dwindling funds.
Problem 1: It all tastes so delicious so I can't help but keep eating.
Solution: Practice the art of mindful eating. Eat slowly and savour each bite of food. Put your knife and fork down between mouthfuls and take time to talk to your table guests. You'll find you'll be satisfied with a smaller portion. Can't decide what to order? Order a few dishes amongst the table and share them- that way you'll get a taste of everything.
Problem 2: I cannot go to a restaurant without ordering dessert: it's my favourite part!
Solution: There's no need to go without dessert, especially if this is the part of the meal you most look forward to. But why not skip the main and go for an entree and dessert instead? Or share a main with a friend then both enjoy dessert? Another option? Choose a lighter, fruit-based dessert and hold the extra cream.
Problem 3: The meal was so expensive, I can't bear to see food go to waste.
Solution: There's no need for the food to go to waste, most restaurants will happily bag up your leftovers in a doggy bag for you to take home and enjoy the next day. You can also check with the waiter or waitress the size of the meal before you order it so you'll have an idea of whether it will be big enough to share (which also means a shared cost).
Problem 4: I'm often so hungry when I get there, I fill up on the complimentary bread and then regret it.
Solution: Avoid arriving to a restaurant so hungry you could eat a horse- this is when we tend to overeat. The aim is the eat when you are slightly hungry and stop when you are just feeling satisfied. Have a small snack such as a few nuts or a glass of milk before you go out so you can say no to the bread altogether and save room for the main event!
Problem 5: I enjoy the meal while I'm out but it tends to come back to bite me later on that night.
Solution: Rich, fatty or surgery meals, carbonated drinks like soft drink and alcohol can result in reflux or heartburn. Order meals with creamy or oily sauces on the side, avoid the super sickly desserts or share them to halve their potency, and drink mostly water. And your Mum's old advice of wearing stretchy pants when eating out? Take it. Tight belts, stockings and pants that cut in around the stomach can also contribute to reflux.
Problem 6: I don't know how to control myself when faced with a buffet.
Solution: An 'all you can eat' buffet loses its appeal when you eat so much you feel physically ill. Have one plate, and one plate only (you wouldn't fill up your plate 3 or 4 times at home, so why would you when you're out?). Have a good long look at everything on offer before putting anything on your plate- that way you avoid the regret when you pile your plate with lasagne but then see the amazing looking souvlaki. Start with the salads or veggies. Fill half your plate with these and then just add a taste of each of the most delicious looking dishes.
Problem 7: I just don't know what the healthiest thing is to order.
Solution: As a general rule: avoid anything deep fried, with lots of cheese or processed meats such as bacon, ham or salami, creamy sauces or curries, fatty cuts of meat like pork belly, chicken wings or sausages. Instead, opt for: lean meats or seafood that have been grilled, baked, steamed, braised or stir-fried, tomato-based sauces, plenty of veggies and baked potatoes or grainy bread. Don't be afraid to ask the waiter or waitress to hold the chips, put the dressing on the side or have an extra side of vegetables.