It’s the holidays – aka “throw your diet out the window time.” I mean, who can keep up the fight against all the parties and restaurants? It’s all a bunch of drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and desserts taunting you at less than an arms length away.
Who can blame you for throwing up your arms, giving up and saying youll start over again in January?
BUT-honestly, the problem isnt the holidays. Nor is it any other special occasion, date night, or a simple night out with the friends at any other time of the year. The problem is, is that most of us aren’t equipped with the tools and tips we need to navigate restaurant menus and stay on track even in the most tempting of situations.
Contrary to most diet guides whose answer is to just say no, here are some real life diet tips that actually work in these dire situations.
SKIP THE FREEBIES
Don’t let the bread, dips or tortilla chips that await you at your table be your demise. Many times we come to the restaurant starved, and if there is any wait for a table things just get worse, leaving you gorging on the bread basket before you even look at the menu. Having a small nutritious snack before you leave the house will leave you just satisfied enough to be able to skip the chips and salsa. Tell your server right away that youre not interested in these not-so-nutritious starters. Keeping it out of sight will help keep the temptation at bay.
SAY NO TO LIQUID CALORIES
I know how hard it is to avoid a nice drink, sweet tea, or soda during the holidays; especially when everyone else is. So here are some tips to still have that drink AND not over do it:
- If you drink alcohol on an empty stomach, it can lower your inhibitions to the point that you lose sight of your strategy. Have a protein filled appetizer (like smoked salmon, shrimp cocktail, or a meat and cheese platter) BEFORE your drink. This will help you feel full and avoid sugar cravings. It will also help slow down the buzzed affects of the alcohol.
- Many beverages are so filled with sugar and empty calories its like having dessert, so think of it this way: If you really want dessert, skip the drink. You decide ? its one OR the other. Hey, its all about compromise isnt it? Youre more likely to stick to water if you know youll sink your teeth into a yummy treat later on, and youll feel less guilty about it too.
- Order wine by the glass rather than by the bottle so that youre in better control of your intake. Save the drink to have with the main course and sip water while you wait for your plate.
DON’T FOLLOW THE CROWD
It’s hard to stick to your healthy choice when you see all your friends choosing decadent options. Say it out loud to the table as everyone is choosing. For instance: I want to eat healthy tonight, I think I’ll go with the salmon.” This will help hold you to your choice and may even influence your group to follow in your footsteps. Try to place your order first so you are more likely to sidestep pier pressure.
BEWARE THE SUAVE MENU
Restaurants arent stupid – Its all marketing, baby! If youre aware of whats going on youre less likely to get caught in the trap. Research shows that words that suggest taste and texture in a menu can increase sales by 23%, and can even influence the way you think the food tastes. Description words like mouth-watering, tender, juicy, velvety, and legendary are all made to make you choose that item. Order with open eyes!
HAVE IT YOUR WAY
- Always aim for a healthy side. People often hesitate to speak up about their preferences to their server. Never feel obligated to accept a meal as is. If for instance, you really want the steak but it comes with potatoes and the fish comes with grilled veggies. There is no reason why you cant ask for the grilled veggies with your steak instead of the potatoes. It’s already on the menu after all.
- Restaurants are pretty good at offering low-fat alternatives. Don’t be shy to ask if a dish can be broiled or baked instead of fried.
- If you really want to have the pasta, order a side salad and/or a sliced chicken breast on top of it. This way, your meal is more balanced.
EAT PROTEIN & FAT, VEGGIES, AND THEN CARBOHYDRATES
You don’t need to eat in this order bite for bite, but you should focus on getting your protein, healthy fats and vegetable portions in before you scarf down most of the carbs (carbs include starchy potatoes people!) Protein, fat and veggies help to slow down digestion, leaving you feeling fuller, faster. So, eating this way will make you less likely to over do it with dessert because youre already feeling full.
PORTION CONTROL IS A MUST-DO
Restaurant portions are known to be huge-about two to three times the quantity that we need in a meal in fact. Request a to-go box right from when you order. As soon as that plate hits he table pack away half of it. This way, youll resist temptation to finish it all.
Sometimes we eat more than we should because it tastes so darn good, but listen to your internal hunger signals and stop when you feel satisfied- not stuffed, satisfied. Eating slowly helps you to be more aware of your bodys cues.
MAKE A MEAL OUT OF APPETIZERS
Appetizers are often more appropriate portion sizes than entrees. For example fresh spring rolls, or a salad that isnt loaded with high-fat ingredients such as cheese and bacon. Or consider combining a couple: a broth-based soup can go nicely with a nice garden salad for a light meal. Be sure to stay away from app-ies that are fried, smothered in cheese, or cream sauces.
BE SALAD SMART
A salad can be an enemy in disguise. Sure, youre getting a bunch of healthy greens, but if you drown them in high-fat dressings or toppings like cheese, candied nuts, bacon or croutons it kind of cancels the healthy out. Pick calorie-friendly dressings like vinaigrettes, low-cal dressings, balsamic or apple-cider vinegar, even a generous squeeze of fresh lemon. You can also order the dressing on the side so that you are in control of your dressing portion.
HOW TO HANDLE DESSERT
If you have the option its always best to just have a taste of your partners dessert or split one with someone rather than have one all to yourself. If you must have your own, the healthiest dessert option is of course fruit, but if you truly want that chocolate cake try your best to limit yourself to three bites and then pack up the rest in a doggy bag. Usually three bites is all you need to have that sweet taste in your mouth and satisfy your craving.
WHEN DEALING WITH FAST FOOD
The holidays are busy which means you dont always have the time to cook a nutritious meal. For those who need to catch a quick meal while away from home here are some of the best fast food choices:
- Dont give into the deal of ordering super-sized options. You’ll probably eat it solely because it’s there. It’s not worth the extra calories.
- The majority of fast foods have a high fat and sodium content. You should NOT exceed one fast food meal per day, twice a week at most.
- Make sandwiches and burgers open-faced by only eating one side of the bun. Go for grilled chicken or turkey instead of beef, and stay away from deep-fried options.
You CAN dine out, enjoy your experience, and STILL be healthy. By following these surefire tips the new year doesn’t have to feel like a start-over.