Summer in Montana means two things: road construction and visitors! I often work with clients that are struggling to meet their goals in healthy eating because entertaining in this culture is often surrounding food; we meet for coffee, go out for breakfast or grab a quick lunch, and indulge at dinner. Sometimes all of the above! Not to mention any company parties or other work-related social gatherings and obligations are surrounding food, as well! Other than being a hermit and missing all the fun, we can incorporate more mindful practices to help us manage and mitigate these meal challenges.
I’ve mentioned the book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think in earlier blogs; if you haven’t picked up your copy, I highly suggest you do! You can also check out his website, here. Brian Wansink, Phd. and colleagues have studied human behavior regarding food choices and tackle the subject of social cues which surround eating, some you may not even be aware of! It can be helpful to understand how the world around us sometimes sets us up to eat more, even on a subconscious level. For example, as mentioned in this book, studies have shown we eat quite a bit more when we eat with others:
When we eat with one other person, we eat 35% more than we otherwise would.
When we eat with a group of 7 or more, we eat more than twice as much: 96% more!
For those of us that are trying to watch what we eat and our waistlines, this can be particularly challenging. So what do we do???
I’ve put together a small list of choices you can make that may help make this a little less daunting, and keep you from abandoning all of your healthy habits. Of course, everything in moderation: sometimes you just want that chocolate pot-de-creme at the end of the meal, or cream cheese stuffed french toast. The very occasional indulgence of these tasty tidbits are okay! (YOLO, right?!) However, if you do this a few times a week you’ll notice your pants are fitting just a wee bit tighter…and you’re moving farther from your goals. Some of the following suggestions may help when going out to eat:
1. Look ahead at the menu and decide what to eat. Preparation is key! Don’t leave yourself vulnerable to that creamy delicious-sounding description, already know what you want and stick to it.
2. Do you get to chose where you go out? If so, chose a lighter fare. Tapas or Asian fusion restaurants may be a better choice than a steak or Italian joint.
3. When your meal comes, ask for a to-go box right away. This a great trick to eating a smaller portion. If you’re riddled with questions, just say, “This tastes so much better the next day!” or “I’m really thrifty! I get to make this meal into two meals!”
4. Have a healthy snack before you go. Keep some almonds on hand, or if you don’t have time, get a side salad first.
5. Eat family-style. Share entrees! This is a great way to create conversation and get the variety of the menu; tapas are a great choice for this style of dining.
6. Stop eating when you’re full! Leave some food on your plate; there’s no need to be part of the “clean plate club” and your leaving food on your plate does nothing for starving children anywhere.
7. One more social tip: pace yourself with the slowest eater; if you eat slower, you may be able to catch that full feeling a little easier.
8. As for the actual menu, stick with dishes that are “grilled” and “broiled”; avoid fried or sautéed. When ordering salad, ask for salad dressing on the side. Try to avoid using all of the dressing you’re given, and stick with vinaigrettes; avoid ranch or creamier dressings.
Most of all, enjoy the company, the sunshine and have fun!