Just when all the challenges and stress of the work week are about to be a distant memory, a new struggle is knocking at the door. Friday brings the WEEKEND which is awesome and fun and well, basically EVERYTHING, but it is also something else….a test of every ounce of willpower you have when it comes to eating healthy and staying on track.
Happy Hour! New Restaurants! Birthday parties! Sporting events! Concerts! Weddings!
From social events to just unwinding, the weekend brings different challenges to staying on track with nutrition. I am a firm believer that eating and drinking as a social activity is super important, so don’t think I’m going to suggest you avoid all of these events. Eating and drinking with family and friends is a way to share love and grow together. So when the crew wants to hang out by going out to dinner, what are you to do?
Here are a few strategies that I use when dining out. Depending on what is most important to you (Does bread make your heart sing? Do you love tasting new beers?) pick a few that are easy enough to execute while still allowing you to let loose a little and enjoy yourself and those around you.
>Check the menu out online before you go.
This sounds super nerdy, but it is my biggest tip for success. I promise it will ease your stress about what to get and make you a more enjoyable person to dine with. So many restaurants have their menus posted online, it only takes a few minutes to familiarize yourself with what they have available, and you can even take a minute to note if you need to ‘personalize’ any items. Maybe you can make a healthy meal out of a few appetizers or customize an existing dish to meet your needs, but if you check it out early, you have some time to think about it and have a game plan. It also eliminates the impulse to get chicken alfredo because all of your friends are getting that. Decide what you are going to order and stick with it. Enjoy the conversation instead of stressing over the menu.
>Portion control is king.
American portions are seriously out of hand. When you get a giant plate of food, it seems like a good value, but it probably accounts for as many calories as you should be having all day. Whether you ask for a box and put half of a portion aside, or take just a small piece of birthday cake, set yourself up for success by limiting the amount of food that is front of you. It’s human nature to just keep on eating, and if you limit what is available, it’s no problem at all if you clear your plate!
>Always get a glass of water.
Even if you are enjoying another beverage, get a glass of water too. You’ll fill up some belly space with water, and stay hydrated too!
>Beware of sneaky salads.
It seems like very few salads are actually healthy options anymore. Salads loaded with avocado, bacon, nuts/seeds or creamy dressings can sometimes have more fat & calories than a full meal! Make sure your salad is not loaded with high calorie toppings and always ask for dressing on the side. Rather than dumping dressing all over your salad, dip your fork in the dressing then get some salad.
>Substitute a veggie for french fries.
Most restaurants offer a side salad or the vegetable of the day instead of fries or chips with a sandwich. It might break your heart to ask for the salad, but it is worth it. A burger with a salad only feels like half a splurge, right?
>Go for flavor.
Try to order something with flavors or seasonings that you don’t use at home. Make it a treat by looking for variety, not necessarily indulgent ingredients. You might just try something you didn’t know you liked!
Do your best to stick to your regular eating time frame and don’t just graze all day. Eat full meals so you are less likely to pick at snacks at home and at parties.
Finally, be smart about your choices but also relax. When food takes over your life and you can’t enjoy social situations anymore, you need to step back and evaluate your balance. I have been on the side of stressing out and not enjoying a night out because all I could think about what how long I’d have to work out or exactly how many calories, grams of fat, etc were in what I just ate. When you do that, you aren’t only ruining your night, but you are not the same person that your friends and family love to be around. Stay smart, but remember that one salad won’t make you healthy and one piece of pizza won’t make you obese. You’ve got this.