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Advice: Eating Out

Tips for eating out on a plant based diet

 

Eating out is something we all enjoy, it’s wonderful to share a meal with family and friends. Whether it's a holiday, an event, or a night on the town, staying healthy in social situations can be a bit of a challenge. Eating out is a time when most people let their guard down.  It’s a time when we allow ourselves to indulge, let go and enjoy ourselves.

While I love eating out with friends, I soon realised that this is not the healthiest pastime. It’s hard to decide what to do if everyone else is stuffing themselves with food and booze especially if they expect you to do the same. Nowadays this seems to be the cultural norm and although you may be with friends you may still feel awkward or intimidated. The comforting familiarity of your old habits may be more socially acceptable to friends or family.

If they are a party-hard crowd they might feel you are judging their less than perfect habits if you don’t join in. If they feel threaten or guilty you may begin to experience their disapproval.  If they are giving you a hard time about changing your eating habits don’t be discouraged, remember it’s a learning curve for them also, who knows they might eventually come round to your way of thinking.

Social desirability is important to the majority of us and the desire to fit-in is something that most of us can relate to. You don’t want to risk social ostracism so you give in to keep the status quo. Then you have to contend with that nagging voice at the back of your mind that tells you have undone all the good work you’ve put in so far and you should have gone for the healthy option on the menu.

Trust me when I tell you there are ways you can look after your health while mixing with friends, my advice is don’t preach as this could end up in an argument, you want to enjoy yourself not argue. People don’t like their comfort zone disrupted and they get intimidated if you become a goody two shoes preaching about the benefits of health. It’s a wonderful gift to share your experience with others and to see the positive effects it has on their lives, however I normally steer away from preaching the benefits of lifestyle changes to those who are not up for it. I identify with how you might be eager to share your experience or feeling compelled to pass on to others what you have learned. In the early days of finding out this information I wanted to tell everyone what I had learned so they too could improve their health, I soon learned that people are impervious to change, not everyone is ready for it.  At this stage I understand that they have little tolerance for these subjects if they have no interest in them. 

Family and friends have a huge influence on our lives but think about it, what is the best part of socialising; it’s connecting, catching up and having a laugh. Well I am wholeheartedly up for that, having a good laugh is an instant natural mood elevator that releases endorphins, health-enhancing hormones, and creates more serotonin-a neurotransmitter that helps combat stress. As they say - laughter is the best medicine. The common bonds we share with family and friends are both enjoyable and important because they fill our lives with meaning and purpose. Focus on conversations and catching up, they will soon become accepting of your choices when they find your still fun to be with. You will find after a while they won't even notice.

When you get more health conscious you meet others who have the same interests. Healthy eating becomes the norm when you start socialising with these people. Mixing with other health conscious people can also prove to be the best possible way forward for you if your family and friends are not really accepting of your new regime. Unless you have support you're likely to be derailed

Ask for what you want

Yes of course it’s harder to stay on track when out of routine but you do not have to cancel out all the previous weeks of trying to stay healthy and in shape in one night. If you think your days of eating out are over, the good news is that most restaurants these days cater for a healthier option. Finding delicious food is easy if you ask, so don’t be shy. I find most restaurants are very accommodating and will create a meal to your liking if you let them know of your preferences at the outset.

Recently we were out for a meal with some friends and although it was a good restaurant the healthy options were pretty poor. I found nothing on the menu that I fancied so I spoke to the waiter and he was more than happy to oblige with something special. The chef enjoyed showing off his talents and when the food arrived the others commented on how tasty it looked. I was pleasantly surprised and the food was absolutely delicious.

Paying more attention to your health makes eminent sense, so don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. If you are too embarrassed to ask for something to be made specifically for you, you can always say you are allergic to certain foods, they will definitely be more accommodating. Asking for what you want encourages restaurants to add healthy foods to their menus. One of my friends who travels internationally and does a lot of entertaining has an e-mail he forwards to restaurants and hotels when he is making a reservation. He finds this works really well as they are informed of his exact requirements, this means he does not have to spend time explaining in front of his guests when he arrives at the restaurant. In case a spontaneous dinner crops up, he also carries a business card with his food requirements printed on it for the waiter to give to the chef which is a great idea.

Not every restaurant you go to is guaranteed to provide a healthy meal so think ahead and book restaurants where you can have a choice of tasty and healthy dishes. When possible, go to restaurants you know and trust. Try dining in Indian, Thai, Chinese and Middle Eastern restaurants they usually cater for vegetarians and vegans and have the greatest choice of these types of dishes. Even fast food restaurants have become much more health conscious and now offer garden salads and baked potatoes.

Concentrate only on the foods that you can eat, rather the foods you can't. The “can have” list of foods leaves less room for poorer choices. Positive focus on what to add rather than what to deprive is the key to success. You will soon begin to notice and enjoy the benefits of this simple tactic. 

Learn to say No

The downfall of most people is the yearning for something sweet to finish off a meal. We’ve all been there - now you need to learn how to handle this new situation. If you don’t want to have that slice of chocolate gateaux or that slice of tempting cheese cake don’t be coaxed into it. Be prepared for the moment when the desire for life’s sweet pleasures overrides all the progress you have made. There will be the moment when you think “I’ll start again tomorrow.”

If you have made significant progress in weaning yourself of sugar this might well spark off cravings and you will be hooked once more. To get through those difficult moments remember why you' made these changes in the first place. Look on the bright side and think about the payoffs – less weight, more energy, clear skin, less symptoms of PMT or menopause and last but not least, better health. Don’t be pressured into eating or drinking things you don’t want to. Okay you might not want to be thought of as a fussy eater who has become fanatical about what they can and can’t eat. I have a friend who heads for the ladies to touch up her make-up when the desserts arrive, she finds it stops the temptation. If you are still having your weekend treat, save it for the evening you are socialising. Now you’re still in with gang but you have not backtracked on your plan.

Opt to be the designated driver, it has its advantages. You don’t over indulge and you don’t end up with a hangover in the morning.

My Top Tips!

 

  • Offer to book the restaurant so that you know it is somewhere that you have interesting and healthy alternatives. Check out the restaurant menus online don’t forget that there are entire websites that accommodate this such as www.menupages.ie
  • Have (dairy free) soup or a salad as a starter. Just because it’s a salad it does not mean it has to be boring. Ask for nuts or beans to add texture and interest.
  • Salads, veggie stews, curries and baked or roast veggie dishes make good mains that are filling and satisfying.
  • Avoid dishes that are fried, as oils become carcinogenic when heated; choose instead raw veggies, baked, boiled, grilled or steamed dishes.
  • Ask what is in the sauce or gravy. If you’re unsure, ask if they can give it to you on the side.
  • Don’t preach to friends. Remember they may not be ready for change. They might eventually follow when they see how well you look.
  • Learn to say no. If you don’t want something don’t be pressured or coaxed into eating it. Stand your ground, decline the offer without fuss.
  • Concentrate only on the foods that you can eat, rather the foods you can't. That way you won’t feel deprived.
  • Opt to be the designated driver, it has its advantages. You don’t over indulge and you don’t end up with a hangover in the morning.
  • If you deviate occasionally don’t beat yourself up, enjoy it, don’t feel guilty but get yourself back on track as soon as possible.
  • Most of all focus on conversations and catching up with friends and don’t emphasise the food element in your mind.There’s not a lot more to say about eating out except enjoy and have fun.

One thought on “Advice: Eating Out”

  • M

    I enjoyed reading this blog because you were so honest about the influence and pressure that comes from OTHERS especially when being 'good' makes them feel 'bad'!
    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
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