How’s the plan to lose twenty pounds in the new year working out? Whether the answer is excellent, not so great, or a work in progress, one of the biggest obstacles in any weight loss journey is eating in a restaurant.
The siren’s song of the drive-thru window or fast-casual dining experience doesn’t stop just because you want to lose a few pounds. Don’t beat yourself up over the desire to eat in a restaurant. It’s perfectly okay to have dinner with friends or grab something on the run. Try not to make fast food a habit, and don’t compound one mistake with another bad choice.
We live in an all-or-nothing world, and that mindset is a killer when we want to lose weight. How many times have you said to yourself, “I screwed up and had french fries for lunch. My diet is already shot, so might as well grab a pizza for dinner.”
How do we keep our waistline in check while eating out? Use these five tips to help make better decisions:
Recognize the Pitfalls
Do you think eating at an upscale restaurant is healthier than a chain like Applebee’s, Olive Garden, or Outback Steakhouse? How about any of those options versus fast food? Well, that’s probably not a reasonable assumption. Just because the table has linen napkins and the forks aren’t plastic doesn’t mean the meal is healthy.
The food quality might be higher at a more expensive restaurant, but the preparation makes all the difference in the world. A chef prepares a meal for taste and presentation, not our waistlines. When was the last time you paid $100 for dinner and said, “It didn’t taste delicious, but I’ll come back because it’s good for me.”
Fast-casual restaurants are likely the worst offenders to our health. Check out the nutrition on a Bloomin Onion at Outback (1,950 calories, 56 grams of fat, and 3,480 milligrams of sodium) or Chicken Alfredo from the Olive Garden (1,620 calories, 100 grams of fat, and 1,680 milligrams of sodium). These things make a number three at the drive-thru look like a kale smoothie.
Menus are available online for almost every restaurant; why do we wait until we get there before deciding what to order? We make the best decisions when not tempted by a myriad of options.
In today’s climate, why would we want to touch a restaurant menu anyway? Plan your order to ensure the best decision. Tell the host or your server that you don’t need to see a menu.
If you happen not to find a suitable healthy option on the menu ahead of time, grab a light snack to curb your hunger. We make poor decisions when we’re hungry.
Hunger vs. Craving
We often confuse hunger for craving. The easiest way to spot the difference is that hunger is a general feeling and craving is specific. A craving is an emotional response to boredom, anxiety, or other need that can only be satisfied with sugar, salt, or fat.
Advertisements target our cravings, and they love convenience. Our brain gets inundated with ads for fast food, and then the ease of the drive-thru window calls us as we pass by. We could wait to make something relatively healthy at home or pull over right now and eat in our car. Craving plus convenience equals a poor decision.
Before clicking that turn signal, ask yourself, “Am I hungry, or do I merely have a craving for something I shouldn’t eat?”
Today’s special is the never-ending pasta dish for only $11.99. Would you like to supersize your order for only a dollar more? How about the all-you-can-eat buffet versus limiting our options for the same price? We love a deal, and more food for less money is quite the bargain.
Unfortunately, the restaurant sells the cheapest ingredients for the highest margin. In the case of high-end restaurants, the special is likely the ingredients with a rapidly approaching expiration date, and the bread is free for a reason.
When we get more for less, we also eat more because we can. Always choose quality over quantity when possible.
Before the smartphone, it was almost impossible to find nutritional information from your favorite restaurant. Nowadays, we can ask Siri or Google how many calories are in a Big Mac.
Several apps like Eat This, Not That! also help us make better decisions at most national chain restaurants. Want to know what to order at Chick-fil-A or the healthiest toppings at Subway? There’s an app for that.
Willpower is Not Your Friend
We’ve all been there! There aren’t many situations where we genuinely don’t know what to do. The problem arises when we believe that we’ll do the right thing every time. The truth is that we won’t.
Self-control and willpower are overrated, and relying on them is a mistake. The rational side of our brains is no match for the emotional side. Yeah, we know you practice Stoicism and believe you’re not an emotional person. Uh-huh!
Trusting our willpower is a trap. The people around us that appear to have tremendous willpower do something different – they control when willpower is necessary and use it sparingly. They limit their options and take choice out of the equation.
Your buddy that’s in great shape and eats better than everyone else makes a conscious decision to limit his options. When the menu arrives, he already knows that he’s getting the grilled chicken salad with oil and vinegar on the side. He drives past the fast-food joints because he carries a bag of almonds to avoid feeling hungry. His workout clothes are in the car, and the gym is on the way home from work.
The guy you want to be doesn’t give himself opportunities to make poor choices.
Take care, even down there.
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