4 Min Read
How to Enjoy Summer Dining Without Crushing Your Diet
Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer. It's dining al fresco season. Is there anything better than sitting outside and having a nosh with our ice-cold beverage of choice?
Let's not confuse these relaxing days with Carbapalooza and decide to disregard our health and waistline completely. It may be summer, but it's not an excuse to throw our healthy eating habits in the closet with our boots and hats.
Looking at a restaurant menu or sitting down for a meal as a guest in someone's home, it's easy to lose our way and opt for unhealthy options. After all, aren't we there to enjoy ourselves?
At a Restaurant
Creating a few basic rules for ourselves helps keep us on track whenever eating outside the home. Without a plan or guidelines, we make poor decisions based on impulse. Almost every restaurant has a menu online nowadays, so why not make our healthy selections ahead of time? When the host or hostess seats us, there's no need to look at the menu. We've already decided.
Ditch the starch
Starchy sides like bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes are the loss leaders in a restaurant. They're usually free because they're cheap, and restaurants want you to fill up on them. If our burger comes with a mountain of fries, the portion size can be smaller.
Starches are dangerous to our diet and are mostly a nutritional wasteland. The problem is that starches taste good and are difficult to resist at the table. Most restaurants will substitute veggies for starch on the side. Fried vegetables or cheese sticks are not a healthy substitute for fries.
Check the oil
If you ditch the starches, it can often be hard to feel satisfied without eating the carbs in a restaurant. To combat this issue, add some healthy fats to your meal by asking for extra butter on your vegetables or oil and vinegar on the salad.
Most casual or chain restaurants use inexpensive vegetable oil instead of olive or avocado oils when cooking. These cheap oils are highly processed and harmful to our health. Don't be afraid to ask your server what type of oil the chef uses. If they use canola or seed oil, consider another menu option that's grilled or fresh.
Sauces, dressings, and condiments are hidden dangers in otherwise healthy meals.
Ketchup is loaded with high-fructose corn syrup, and mayo is usually made with cheap oil (even if the label says olive oil, read the ingredients). Opt for mustard to keep most of the junk out of your condiments.
Another great pitfall of summer is our tendency to over-indulge in an afternoon cocktail. Before you know it, the combination of sun and booze turns us into Tom Brady after a boat parade.
Having a bit of fun is okay, but make sure to try and drink at least a one-to-one ratio of alcoholic drinks and water. This practice cuts down on empty calories, blood alcohol content, and unfortunate calls to our ex.
Please be extra cautious when drinking in the heat. Alcohol and dehydration are a dangerous mix. If you need to think whether it's a good idea to get behind the wheel, it's not!
Consider the options before you order that slice of cheesecake or chocolate decadence thing. Are we still hungry? If so, maybe a cheese plate or berries with whipped cream can tame a post-meal craving. If not, consider how we'll feel if we overeat.
The biggest mistake most of us make when it comes to dessert is thinking that we somehow earned dessert by having a healthy meal. We didn't earn dessert, and we're throwing away all our earlier good decisions.
At someone's home
Going to a barbeque is a little trickier than eating at a restaurant. We don't want to seem like the guy imposing our dietary restrictions on the group. But keep in mind that the host wants you to enjoy yourself and might appreciate some advanced notice. Offering to bring a dish (nobody needs to know it's healthy) is an excellent way of guaranteeing our options.
Another strategy is eating a light snack before the party. Hunger leads to bad choices, and buffet-style meals are tough to control. We tend to overeat because of the continuous availability of food.
Guacamole may be a healthy snack but dipping a pound of tortilla chips is not.
Incorporate the same guidelines when eating at a friend's house as at a restaurant. Sometimes we feel more obligated to eat what a friend prepares, but your health is more important.
It never hurts to mention an allergy or possible stomach issue, even if we don't have one, to help ensure a meal meets our dietary restrictions. Neither a restaurant nor dinner host should question a food allergy, and the last thing they want is for us to get sick at their establishment or party, so a little white lie goes a long way.
It's summer. Let's have some fun!
Anther. Male wellness where it counts.