How To Manage Low Carb Choices Dining Out
So you are doing well living low carb and making good choices when you eat at home. You have lost some weight and are keeping it off. Now you want to venture out and eat in a restaurant with some friends.
How in the world do you manage making good choices in a restaurant? There are just too many temptations??
Here are some tips on how to successfully manage dining out with friends:
- Plan ahead. If you know the name of the restaurant where you will be dining, check out the menu online. You will have time to consider any low carb choices without feeling pressured.
-Decide what you plan to eat before you go and stick to it. Much of what drives us to eat off plan foods is impulse decision-making.
-Try choosing appetizers to control your portions. Appetizers are usually smaller portions and generally do not come with high carb accompaniments like potatoes, rice, or pasta.
-Ask the server to not bring chips, bread, or crackers to your table. If your dining partners insist on these items, push them away from your section of the table and do not indulge in them at all. One bite may awaken the incredible craving beast and lead to many more. Better to not indulge than to try to resist.
-Eat a protein based snack BEFORE you go to the restaurant AND drink at least 8-12 ounces of water before you arrive. If you are not overly hungry before you arrive, you will make better choices that are driven by intellect and not by hunger.
-Have a salad with your meal but beware of what is included in the salad. Salad can contain a considerable amount of carbs and calories (dried fruit, candied fruit and nuts, sugar laden dressings, croutons, sesame sticks, etc). Stick to simple salads without croutons, candied nuts or any fruit.
-The safest salad dressings when dining out are Cesar dressing or blue cheese. They are high enough in fat to taste great on their own so must chefs do not add sugar to them. The fat in them will help you to feel satiated, making you less likely to eat other things. Beware of any other salad dressing in a restaurant because it most likely contains added sugars, in other words, lots of hidden carbs.
-Avoid alcoholic beverages, especially if this is your first time dining out while living low carb. Without having bread, chips, pretzels, or crackers as appetizers, alcohol will hit your bloodstream much sooner and affect your judgment. We ALL have done very silly things while drinking. Why sabotage your weight by drinking alcohol? It will slow your weight loss, can cause you to make bad choices, and adds carbs to your meal. If you are experienced at dining out while living low carb and make good choices when you do, you could consider one drink. Avoid the sweet white wines or liqueurs which are MUCH higher in carbs. Beware any mixers in drinks. Again, if you drink 2 alcoholic drinks or more during a meal on any type of diet, it will affect your judgment and you will be intoxicated. It is NOT worth it!! We are grown ups. We do not have to be intoxicated to enjoy ourselves and the company of friends. Time to step out of the frat house mentality! Remember, alcohol is toxic to the liver and while it is being metabolized (one drink requires several hours to metabolize, 2 drinks about twice the time), it takes over the functions of the liver and NO FAT IS BEING METABOLIZED WHILE ALCOHOL IS BEING METABOLIZED.
-Order grilled or baked meats, no breading and not fried. If you have sauces on your meat, no barbecue sauce or teriyaki (contains sugar).
-Don’t give into ordering pasta, rice, quinoa, couscous, potatoes of any kind, noodles, pizza, breaded meats, french fries, corn chips, tortillas, flatbreads, or any other super high carb item. It is not worth it. If your entree comes with any of these items, ask the server to keep it off your plate. Ask for a substitution (more salad, more veggies).
-Limit sauces which often contain corn starch, flour, and/or sugar. If you order something with a sauce, eat as little of it as possible.
-Avoid dessert. Try a cup of tea or cheese plate to share after your meal instead. If you feel that you must try dessert, share it with others and have only one bite or two at the most. If you can’t share, best to avoid it entirely. Always remember that one bite can easily lead to many other bites off plan.
-If you indulged in too many carbs during your meal out,stick with protein and salads to burn off the excess carbs the following day. Be sure to drink at least 80-100 ounces of water the next day.
-Eat appropriate portions. If your meal is too big (and it will be), eat half and take the rest home or share it with one of your dining companions. Eating family style (everyone sharing their entrees) is often helpful to help you keep the portions lower. Choose small amounts.
-Keep practicing. You will get better at doing a “carb assessment” on the choices available, and picking appropriate meals with ongoing practice.
-If traveling and the only choice is a fast food restaurant, have grilled meat, hot dog, or burger without the bun. With a little practice you can eat the burger while holding it within the bun, having the meat protruding out of the bun while you eat it. Some restaurants will give you the burger in a lettuce wrap instead of a bun. NO FRIES OR ONION RINGS!!
With these few tips you will soon be a pro at dining out.
What if I am dining at a friends house?
What do I do???
-If they are a good friend, let them know about your dietary needs. If they are not, ask about the menu and see if they will let you bring a dish. Bring a low carb dish that you can share. You will at least have something “safe” to eat.
-Try to avoid alcohol for the reasons above. If you drink any alcohol, sip on one drink the entire evening.
-If your meal includes high carb items (pasta, bread, rice, etc) and you are unable to avoid having them placed on your plate, eat ONE bite to be polite and swirl it around, eating the other low carb items instead.
-The same “eat something before you go” applies here as well.
-Avoid dessert. You can always say that you are full. Try tea instead (or coffee).
Happy Dining Folks! With a little practice you will be able to assess the carbs available in any situation and choose those that will do the least damage to your diet and lifestyle. It does not take long to be skilled at not indulging in high carb items or alcohol while continuing to maintain social grace. We all are in situations where it may be best to “take the plate” no matter what is on it. There is no one holding a gun to your head to eat it (at least in most scenarios)!!