Foodies, critics, and enthusiasts will probably crucify me for this but I have to tell you, we were not put on this earth for copious amounts of consumption. I don't only mean food, but of other precious resources like oil, minerals, and our ocean life. Food is only a necessity for the human body to function normally. In our current culture and economic environment a lot of people have the availability to eat recreationally. Dining out, ordering in, and being catered to. Large chain restaurants with copious amounts of food choices and prestigious chef owned restaurants with the most sought after new cuisines. The fascination with eating within our culture has lead to the highest obesity rates in history. These health factors then turn into other health related illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure amongst others. I am not saying you should not enjoy the occasional dining experience, but it has become the norm. Living to eat your next meal.
I can't deny, I myself do love the dining out experience. The simpleness of choosing what I want at whim and boom, 10 minutes later, effort free, it's in front of me. So how can we still have our cake and eat it too, so to speak? By making smarter decisions when it comes to our meal choices when we are away from home. The first step is choosing the right restaurant. With so many choices out there how do you do it? It can be difficult at times especially if you live in a smaller town or city. Fortunately for me, Jacksonville offers such a large variety of food choices in a close travel proximity. Do you go with the large chain establishment or the mom and pop spot down the road? I honestly don't think it always matters. If the restaurant promotes fried or fatty foods as their staple, bets are you should avoid it. Look to find places that promote not only healthy food choices but also may describe their attempts to prepare the food in better ways. Places that grill instead of fry for example. Some of my absolute favorites are First Watch, Kathy's Table, and many sushi bars. These type of places offer high protein, and the right sources of carbs and fats, prepared in a way that does not add large amounts of unnecessary extra macros. I don't think people take the time to think about what they are choosing as a meal, and even more importantly how its prepared. Are the cooks using vegetable, canola, or olive oil? I ask how they prepare so I can gauge and decide if I would like to substitute out. It's not rude to ask. It's your body and you're allowed to know whats going in it.
So, you've chosen the restaurant, knowing how they prepare most of the food already. Do you automatically go straight for the big burger, covered in cheese and accompanied by the side of greasy French fries? Or do you look to the grilled fish, chicken or even vegetarian option? Personally I don't think any one protein or meat option is evil, so to say. I believe they all serve their place and are appropriate given the time and your goal. Just look to find out how they intend to prepare it. Grilled, steamed, and slow cooked are always better options. You should be wary of fried, au gratin, and oven roasted options. The only reason I say oven roasted should be avoided is due to the fact that a lot of establishments infuse with butter or other oils to soften the meat during the cooking process. Next the carb choice. I always find out first if they have gluten free options. This is a personal preference only due to how gluten enriched products make me feel after consumption. There is a lot of mixed scientific literature on this subject and I'm not sure if there is indisputable evidence yet found to rule one way or another. Next I think about the time of day and what I will be doing later, or maybe what I have just got done doing. This means, if I'm out to breakfast and I'm starting my day I will probably allow myself a larger carbohydrate source because I will need them to fuel my body for the rest of the day. If I'm out to dinner and it is going to be my last meal of the evening I may consider going with a very light carb source or even just sticking to vegetables. But if you're headed out to a post workout meal, a carb source will be needed to help replenish glycogen stores in your body consumed with your resistance and/or cardiovascular training. My main carb sources of choice when dining out are sweet potato, white potato, rice, and quinoa. I always make sure to ask how the sources are prepared. Are they steamed, boiled, or baked? Do they use butter, cream, or oils in the cooking process? These may seem to be pain in the ass questions to ask, but your health and success rely on these factors being included in the decision making process.
Lastly, some tips for dining out successfully. First your drink option. Try to avoid sugary sodas, fruit juices, heavy beers, and mixed drinks containing sugar based mixers. Stick with water, unsweetened iced and hot teas, light beers, and drinks mixed with club soda and sweetened naturally with fruit. No matter what your choice, always make sure you have a water. Not only is it obviously great for hydration purposes but it will aid in helping you feel full. Next, I say skip the appetizer. Not only is it added calories but when do you see many healthy appetizer options? Rarely in my opinion. They are meant to be made quickly, for easy and fast consumption and at a inexpensive cost to the establishment serving them. My last tip will probably make most people roll their eyes, but I promise you it works. When you receive your meal, immediately ask for a to go container. Take half of your meal and put it in the container. Unless you're a tiny person then maybe put two thirds of it away. This will undoubtably keep you from over eating. If there is something that may not reheat well, choose to eat this at your initial sitting but otherwise you have nothing to lose. Worst case scenario you're hungry later and it will be there ready for consumption. This also promotes the everyday notion I have of eating less more ofter. But that is for another time and blog.
Now that you are armed with all of your new eating guidelines, go out and enjoy yourself stress free! You are now capable of making smart and informed decisions about your meals. Occasionally eating out without the overwhelming fear that you will later resent yourself for will make the experience all the much better. Just remember, find healthy establishments, choose the right foods at the right times, and use your new dining tactics to conquer post meal remorse. Good luck out there everyone!