Although I have a background in holistic healthy coaching, like many other seemingly healthy people, I get “stuck” in certain situations. Eating out is one of them. I can be “good” all week, cooking clean meals and drinking plenty of green juice, but when I go out to a nice restaurant, that is all long forgotten. I often leave nights out feeling full, bloated, and exhausted. I tapped into my friend Jessica (We worked together first at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition and then at Nourish Snacks), the best nutritionist I know, for some advice.
I love Jessica’s approach to nutrition because she has the clinical side but also takes a more holistic approach than most RDs out there. Her claim to fame? Creating recipes that prep in 7 minutes or less- perfect for moms and busy people.
I asked her to give me some easy tips for eating out so that I can avoid that food-coma feeling.
This is what she had to say:
1. Bread for the table? Stop. Think.
This is the most important decision you’ll make all night. If you say yes, you’re facing about 200 calories per sliceâ€”and these are the empty type of calories that won’t really satiate you (but will taste damn good). Plus, starting with the bread (at least for me) might make you feel like you’ve already blown your will power, so why not eat the whole pasta dish, the second drink, and the dessert? You only live once! Again, Stop. Think. If you’re obsessed with the bread at this place (I’m talking, warm, glutenous, fresh-from-the-oven bread) then go for it, but make this your one splurge, commit to a lighter main course and pass on dessert.
2. Plan to splurge… on one thing.
You’re out at a restaurant, enjoy yourself. Pick something that makes you feel like you’re treating yourselfâ€”a glass (or 2!) of wine, the freshly baked bread you can’t resist, a homemade pasta entrée, or the sinful chocolate dessert. Check out the menu ahead of time so you’re not fumbling over choices when the waiter approaches.
3. Beer, wine, cocktail? Yes, please.
But steer clear of anything sugary- white Russians, piÃ±a coladas, daiquiris, even mojitos and margaritas can set you back 200-400 calories, spike your blood sugar, and make you hungrier so you’re likely to eat more. Plus, sugary concoctions slide down a little too quickly and you’re ordering another before you know it. Instead, stick with a light beer, a glass of wine, champagne, or a simple cocktail like a vodka-soda or tequila-soda with a splash of fruit juice, all of which clock in under 150 calories. Drinks made with bitter spirits can also slow your slurpâ€”think: Aperol, Campari, Gin, Mezcal. And if you’re extending your dry January (ps. you rock) ask the bartender to make you a bitter mocktail.
4. Still, sparkling, or tap? Order the fancy water.
This seems completely moronic. Pay for water?! But hear me out, there’s a psychological reason for this. If you pay for the fancy bottle of Pellegrino, you’re much more likely to drink it all, and this water will serve 2 very important functions. First, it’ll fill you up so you won’t eat as much as you would have on an empty stomach. And second, it’ll hydrate you and help neutralize the effects of the alcohol the next morning.
5. Start with an appetizer? Heck no.
Apps are traditionally fried, greasy, carby… in other words, so delicious you won’t be able to control your hunger, and before you know it you’ve just downed an entire meal’s worth before the entrees even hit the table. I say pass. But if you simply must order one, avoid the obvious fried dough offenders and cheese-carb combos. Stick with shrimp cocktail, hummus, or even meatballsâ€”the protein will help satiate you. Just be sure to share it, cap it at a few tasty bites to quench your curiosity, and then focus on the conversation.
6. Find produce, pair it with protein.
The combo of fiber and protein fills you up and steadies your blood sugar so you stay satisfied. It also showers your body with nutrition. Train your eyes to seek out dishes centered on non-starchy produce as the baseâ€”salads, sautéed greens, brothy vegetable soupsâ€”and build from there. If it doesn’t feature any protein, add some! Think: grilled shrimp, chicken, salmon, beef, or vegetarian options like black beans, lentils, chickpeas, or tofu. And curb the starch/carb intake at about the size of the palm of your hand, or nix it altogether if you feel like you’ll be satisfied without it. Some of my favorite things to order are the grilled fresh fish with seasonal veggies, a black bean burger sans top bun, or a big green salad with a vinaigrette and sautéed shrimp.
Jessica is a NYC-based nutritionist and registered dietitian. She has a private nutritional counseling practice, where she helps real people lose real weight (no fancy detoxes here) and live better. She is also the Director of Nutrition for Joy Bauer at Nourish Snacks. Some fun facts about Jessica: She’s a science nerd and chocolate addict who loathes exercise but loves to be active. For more healthy tips and recipes, check out Jessica’s site.