Dinner and a movie.
Do these words make you cringe as you brace yourself for another epic battle between choc tops and your will power?
You don’t have to banish social events from your calendar to stay on track with your fitness goals. There are ways to still enjoy amazing food and company without resorting to BYO carrot sticks and salad leaves. The key to eating out without pigging out is knowing what to choose and what to avoid on your plate when it comes to ordering.
Here’s a few tips and tricks to try out for your next hot date:
1. Research the menu online
You wouldn’t buy a car without first checking the specs out, so why not check out the restaurant menus before deciding where to eat?
Most places have an online menu on their websites where you can research to heart’s content. Pick what will work within your meal plan even before you commit to making a table booking and, if ever in doubt, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call the place to specify your dietary requirements. Most chefs are more than happy to accommodate for special requests (anyone say gluten, dairy and nut free?) providing they are told in advance.
2. Sharing is caring
While those pesky Jurassic Park dinosaurs were chomping on hapless tourists back in ’93, the standard pack of popcorn you devoured while watching the carnage totaled an average 270 calories. Fast forward to present day and the same box of popcorn now comes in at a minimum 630 calories! Avoid the super-sized calorie time bomb by bringing your own organic popcorn or sub for a bag of nuts. If you really can’t resist the lure of the candy bar, then the next best thing is to go the kid size portion and share with your hot date.
Same concept goes for entrees and desserts- splitting either the entree or dessert with your dining buddies will not only give you a tasty samples of the menu, but you will also avoid overeating and help you control your portion sizes.
3. Skip the sugary drinks
Not being a kill-joy, but soft drinks and alcohol are the easiest ways to add empty carbs and calories into your meal plan. Watch the typical lattes and cappuccinos too, as those sneaky satchels of sugar and milk clock up on the calorie meter too! Best choices that spice up regular water are herbal or green teas after or during the meal for the anti-oxidant boost. Special occasion or celebration that requires alcohol? Pass on the fancy cocktails and opt for a glass of red instead- red wine contains polyphenols, an antioxidant that can help keep blood vessels flexible and low bad cholesterol. One glass, not the whole bottle though (you have been warned)!
4. Lean meats with sauce on the side (or no sauce)
Eye fillet, kangaroo, fish or chicken. Lean proteins are your best friend to keep you fuller for longer and keeps your metabolism churning long after the last bite. Always ask the sauce or dressings to be served on the side so you can control how much you put on your plate- the worse thing is ordering a salad and finding it drenched in too much dressing. Go one better and pass the creamy sugary sauces and request for olive oil with a dash of balsamic vinegar.
Choosing grilled over fried is a no brainer, but other preparation words to avoid are breaded, buttered, fried, pan-fried, creamed, scalloped, au gratin, a la mode.
Healthier preparation words are baked, steamed, broiled, poached, stir-fried, roasted, blackened.
5. Skip the deep fried chips and potatoes
I know, some times the sexiest things are dripping in oil and melted cheese but by eliminating them from your plate in the first place you kill all temptation in one swift swoop.
If you have a weakness for complimentary bread rolls at the beginning of the night, request for the a bowl of olives instead or order a light entree (steamed scallops or oysters work well here) to nosh on while your dinner buddies mull over the menu with their carbs in hand. Once, when I was dining at a Lebanese restaurant, my waiter was brilliant enough to serve me a plate of freshly sliced vegetables so I could enjoy the eggplant dip with the rest of the dinner party- how simple but completely thoughtful was that?
6. Don’t be afraid to specify
If you are on a low carb diet, it’s effective to tell the wait staff to note that you are gluten intolerant and hold any starchy sides. Fresh greens or salad can easily replace potatoes or chips. Getting friendly with the managers or owners of the places you dine at regularly has its perks- I’ve had so many people bulk at my breakfast request of “4 egg white omelette with chicken” the first time round. If you don’t want them to spike your food with salt or pepper either, just say so! After all, you are the customer and paying for food you should get the way you like.
So there you have it- you can dine out without busting your fitness goals with this simple list.
Moderation is key, so enjoy the experience and remember that the main event of the occasion should be the company and not all about the food!