Zion Nat'l Park, Columbine

Eat Well

Tricks of the trade – Restaurant Survival 101.

Imagine This: A much-anticipated dinner at that new restaurant you have been so eager to try, perhaps in celebration of an anniversary or a promotion. It’s been a busy day without much time for lunch.  You are ravenous when the hostess seats you and thrilled when the bread, oil, and balsamic vinegar arrives.  Marveling at the chewy texture of the ciabatta while enjoying a glass of wine, you contemplate the menu. Along with the divine roasted beet, arugula, and goat cheese salad, you enjoy a second and maybe a third piece of bread. When the entrée arrives twenty minutes later, you are amazed to find that you are no longer very hungry!

Of course you feel compelled to at least try the entrée, which is delicious, leading to an enticement for a couple more bites, and before you know it, you are uncomfortably full! Does this sound familiar?

Eating out does not have to be a free-for-all in terms of indulgence.  It is entirely possible to enjoy a fine meal out (or in for that matter), eat well, become satisfied and well-fed, but not over-fed. Even in a restaurant that serves mammoth portions that encourage overeating, you have a choice!  You will find the following tips to be practical, realistic, pleasant, and helpful:

  1. Decide prior to the meal whether you will have alcohol.  If so, this will impact the amount of bread you eat—if any at all.
    1. Note: A lunch meal usually does not include alcohol, so feel free to indulge in one piece of bread. If we are talking about dinner, it’s an either/or situation. I would rather enjoy my carbohydrate calories from a glass as opposed to a basket! Don’t get me wrong…Bread is the staff of life.  Bread of good quality is a healthy choice.  BUT, bread is one of those tricky restaurant challenges: limiting yourself to just one piece is not easy and often times, the bread served is a processed white flour variety, which diminishes its’ nutritional value.
    2. Be Bold! Consider asking the waitperson to please not bring the bread to the table.  Adios temptation.
  2. Order a salad or bowl of soup as an appetizer, and an entrée that you will share with your companion.  If you are dining alone, still order the salad or soup, and go to step 3.
  3. If you have ordered an entrée to eat without sharing—this is fine. As soon as it is placed in front of you, ask the waitperson to bring you a to-go container.  This will allow you to cut the entrée into half portions and box up what will become your lunch or dinner for the next day! This is an important step: if you wait until after you have eaten half of your meal to ask the wait person for a box, you will end up nibbling from your plate while you wait for him to do so.  Before you know it, there will not be enough of the entree remaining to take away. Since wasting food is not an appealing option, you will end up eating those “last few bites”.  Viola!  You have over-eaten! Not only does this to-go trick allow you to eat less, but you are actually saving money, as an additional meal has been created for the price of just one. Way to go!
  4. Request a double portion of the veggies in place of the rice or potato side dish.  Yum!
  5. Be mindful while you eat.  Inhale the aromas wafting from your plate. Notice the colors of your food and the way it is presented. Pay attention to the various flavors. Take small bites. Savor the distinct textures of each part of the meal. Chew slowly. Mindfulness while eating generally means a slower paced meal, which leads to less food being eaten.  Fantastic!
  6. Consider dessert carefully. Did you exercise today? Perhaps dessert is acceptable since you burned calories earlier in the day. Are you going to exercise tomorrow?—even better! Must you have it? Ask the waitperson about the size of the dessert; if it is a petite serving size, sharing it with your meal mate is a reasonable choice. If is one of those mega sized portions, consider sorbet or a sweet flavored tea.
    1. Did you know that it takes about 15 minutes for your brain to recognize that your stomach is full? Those are precious minutes.  If you sipped on tea, enjoyed a lively conversation with your partner, and gave your brain time to catch up, you will very likely discover that you are in fact, satiated, and are no longer tempted to eat dessert.  Wonderful!
    2. You might also solicit the support of your dinner companion prior to the meal.  This works for me: I will state my desire to NOT have dessert and request the support of my husband. At this point in our lives, neither one of us needs the dessert; it’s all about gratification.  His agreement to support my request means that the weight is lifted (no pun intended) to have to make a decision later. It’s reverse peer pressure!
    3. Notice that dessert receives far more consideration in this article than any other part of the meal!
  7. Bon Appétit.

Many times we eat for reasons that have nothing to do with being hungry.  The amazing human mind derives much satisfaction—in many ways—from food.  Planning ahead prior to going out to eat will increase your success in eating well, eating healthfully, and eating for pleasure.

Robin Mallery

Robin Mallery

Robin Mallery is passionate about food! Starting from where and how it's grown, to how far that food travels to the dinner table, to how it is prepared and savored...Robin blends shopping, cooking, and eating tips with her unique Kitchen Zen and mindful meals approach to enjoying real food.

While you are waiting for her to finish the upcoming book, "Kitchen Zen: The Journey to Nourish Body and Soul in Our Changing World", you can find Robin's sporadic blog posts here or on FaceBook.
Robin Mallery

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The best thing I did when I discovered I had Type 2 Diabetes was to call Robin Mallery. She coached me to craft a plan to turn this condition around, and the encouragement to believe that I can.  Instead of feeling overwhelmed, I am managing well, using Robin’s program of small steps, achievable goals, and positive reinforcement.  She’s not only a fountain of knowledge and experience, but a loving teacher and motivator.  For the first time in years, I don’t feel helpless about eating and weight gain.  Thank you, Robin!

—GC, Austin

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