Many of my coaching clients said eating out was their kryptonite…. Others say eating out, having fun and staying healthy are nearly impossible. This all-or-nothing mindset is counter-productive. Worst of all it leads people to give up and surrender their health, happiness and fitness.
Those who do try to eat healthy in restaurants are often confused by some myths (more on that below)….This is I am writing this post today. We´ll focus on strategies and skills to help you (and myself) stay healthy while eating out, entertaining, having fun and traveling a lot.
No doubt, this is a challenge in our mass-produced, factory-food, dominated 24/7 world. We are prompted and tempted by sophisticated neuro-marketing campaigns to eat tasty lab-created food products that boost our “feel-good hormones” like dopamine. But there is a cost, a cost of slowly damaging the health and vitality of many of us as evidenced by the steady rise in obesity, type-2 diabetes and other largely preventable health problems.
You see, I was nearly diabetic, fatigued, flabby, and frustrated before I learned how to master my metabolism through lifestyle habits. I’m involved in a travel business along with wellness and like many of you, travel often within Europe and to North America. Nowadays I stay fit, focused while traveling a lot. A keystone habit is to manage to eat well despite the challenges. Below I share some of my healthy restaurant food tips, strategies and ideas from 15 years staying healthy in the travel business.
First a powerful mindset principal for this: perfection is the enemy of progress…..
….so whether you’re at home or on the road do the best you can with what you have. This means to pre-decide to not allow a bit of imperfection to lead you to the slippery slope and surrender to easy processed food choices for the rest of the week or month or year. This is one reason, I often program in a “eat-whatever meals” ….but only after the first 2 weeks of metabolic makeover but that is another post.
Dining out can be memorable, convenient, and fun. I love to eat out and do it often. Now I have visited very simple and very high-end restaurants in my travels across Europe, South America, USA and Asia in the last few years. Using the strategies and tips below, I always discovered something that’s at least fairly healthy, sometime with a few tweaks:
Focus on real whole foods, ideally baked, raw or sautéed… This means passing on the fried, sweet, gluten grains and overly processed foods. If possible choose foods sourced from the area you happen to be in. A great rule of thumb is to cover 50% to 60% of your plate with a variety of non-starchy veggies that are full of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Top the veggies with some healthy fats. Extra virgin olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon juice is super tasty and good for you! Then add a serving some type of high quality protein that will supply the essential amino acids
Healthy appetizers are possible …. share ’em, do it Spanish tapas style!….. Ask for a bowl of olives, or almonds instead of the bread! Also never hit the booze when you are thirsty.
Healthy drinks: H2O + Booze… Always have some water on the table. I love to add lemon or lime to add flavour! If you want your metabolism to burn fat pass on alcohol. That is because alcohol blocks the use of fat as fuel. If you do drink, ( I do on special occasions, go for quality not quantity. The least damaging choices are a bit of white spirits or dry wines.
See online menus and maybe call… Information is power. So take 3 minutes online and check out the menu to look for simpler whole food based dishes that could mean Fish or meat and vegetables. Remember you can substitute the side dishes. One unexpected benefit to planning ahead is you become the insider when you arrive to the restaurant and are waiting. So you can enjoy the moments enjoy the convivial conversation and have more fun. If you have time call ahead and ask about the availability of substitutions do it. Yes in a bit of a hassle the first time but you will enjoy your evening with friends or family much more. Plus you’ll be more likely to repeat and social life is healthy.
All salads are NOT created equal… it really depends on the ingredients. Start by start by avoiding the commercial salad dressing and sauces because of added sugar and often MSG. Also avoid the glazed nuts and the dried fruits which impact with sugar. This way we avoid a Pseudo healthy salad that has more calories than a small pizza!
When you fly, bring some food… try things that are easy to carry and eat like almonds or walnuts or carrots or maybe even something that’s a little more exotic like maybe wild salmon and a veggie salad.
Manage hunger & dinner delays… often times busy restaurants have delays so will seat you later than you’re reservation. My tip here is to not allow yourself to be super-hungry. This means plan ahead and have a bigger lunch or a healthy snack so that you don’t become ravenous with the breadbasket in front of you.
Beware of the danger zone… anything that’s crispy, glazes, crunchy, fried, ready-breaded translates into bad fat and or high sugar. So focus on protein and non-starchy vegetables better grilled baked broiled or raw.
Have a plan B to call an audible… let’s say you like the grass-fed beef not the risotto that comes with it…. politely ask for a non-starchy vegetables to substitute the risotto.
Don´t assume… if in doubt ask your server about the preparation and the sauces.
Be creative…. it’s 100% okay to order appetizers (like in Spain) as your main course really hungry?….. Order two and enjoy the variety
Focus on enjoying the moments with friends and family… at the table as much as the food not only will you enjoy the time together but you will eat more slowly and feel satiated
So there you have it amigo…. some of my best strategies and tips to eat out, travel and stay healthy!
Now I’d love to hear your ideas for eating out at restaurants and staying healthy.
Please chime in below in the comments and let us know your tips, stories or challenges, OK?