After a busy week of work, you’re finally out for dinner with friends. You’re so happy to relax, enjoy the restaurant’s ambiance, catch up with your besties, and enjoy some good food. You begin to peruse the menu, only to realize that it might take some guesswork to choose a meal that’s in line with your healthy eating goals. Maybe you’ve been working hard to make good food choices and you don’t want a night out to derail your hard work, or you know that finding something that’s appropriate for a dietary restriction you’re adjusting to for health reasons could be difficult.
If so, you’re not alone. At one point or another, we’ve all found ourselves in situations where we’ve needed to choose from limited options, whether it’s when we’re out for dinner at a new restaurant or looking for a quick snack in between appointments or errands. So what to do?
Here are some things I suggest my clients try when facing limited food options:
- Think about your big-picture goal. What is it that you want to get out of the experience. For example, if you’re out with friends and enjoying their company is your priority, order a sensible meal that you’ll enjoy but won’t be overthinking during the meal or after.If your priority is to enjoy a favorite indulgent treat or a local specialty at a vacation destination, then order accordingly.
- Think about how you want to feel after eating. This is a big motivator for me, personally . I like feeling good about the choices I make, especially when it comes to the food I consume. While I think indulging in a special treat is important (Hello, bacon! At least for me—maybe your thing is chocolate, bread, pasta—we all have our thing!), I don’t want to walk away from a meal feeling uncomfortable, so I go with things that I know will energize and satisfy me. Typical RD stuff, I know, but I do tend to prioritize veggies and proteins, which leaves a little room for a treat like bacon with my veggie omelet or an alcoholic beverage with my fish and greens.
- Think about what you truly want to eat (and if it’s a less healthy option, consider a realistic way to make space for it elsewhere in your day). Who doesn’t want indulge in a rich pasta sauce or decadent dessert every once in a while? And it’s totally ok to do so—In fact, I encourage my clients to enjoy an occasional treat to avoid feeling deprived. What’s also important is thinking about ways you can make accommodations for that meal elsewhere in your day (or the next day). For example, if you know you’re going to want dessert, you could cut out a carb serving at dinner and trim added sugar from elsewhere in your day.
- Tune out feeling pressure to eat what everyone else is if you really want something different. Don’t want biscuits and gravy for brunch like the rest of your friends? No problem! It’s more than ok to order what makes you feel best. Ultimately, it’s your body, so you decide what to feed it. On the flip side, if everyone around you is ordering salad and you’re dying for a juicy burger, go for it!
If you find yourself struggling with this process, working with a dietitian or health coach can help. I’d love to chat with you about ways to support your goals and think clearly when you’re trying to tune in to your priorities– click here to book a free consult call.