Six Diet-Conscious Tips for Eating Out

Featured Article, News and Advice, Weight Loss
on January 17, 2012

I’ve just spent a few days with Spry magazine/ colleagues from around the country at our annual staff meeting. I love the chance to connect face-to-face with all the creative people who help us inspire our 9 million-strong audience to get healthier and happier.

It is a challenge, though, to stick to a healthy lifestyle when your job involves entertaining clients and colleagues. In fact, one of the top questions I get from readers is exactly that: How do I deal when I’m forced to eat out several nights a week? Here are my strategies.

At happy hour, go tart, not sweet, bold, not wimpy. Of course, you don’t have to imbibe at all. A good glass of club soda and lime is perfectly acceptable. But if you do choose to drink, opt for cocktails and other alcoholic beverages that challenge your tastebuds so you’ll be more likely to sip them, not swill them. For instance, opt for a cabernet savignon over an easier-drinking Merlot or even white wine, or a simple vodka/soda/lime cocktail instead of a margarita. Remember: The less alcohol you drink, the less likely you are to overdo it at dinner.

Order an appetizer.Thanks to portion-size inflation, entrees at most restaurants are massive, enough to feed 2, 3, even 4 people. Appetizers (with the exception of things like the Bloomin’ Onion!) are typically more appropriately sized for one person than entrees. Some restaurants are willing to do appetizer-size portions of regular entrees—just ask your server.

Share. Don’t be shy about suggesting to share an entrée with a colleague—most people are likely in the same situation you are. If you order a green salad as a starter and split an entrée, you’ll be completely satisfied.

Get a to-go box with your entree. I have a few friends who order a to-go box with their entrée, and go ahead and place half their meal in it before they start eating. That might not be cool in a fine-dining establishment, but most casual restaurants won’t have an issue with it.

Cut the carbs. Carb-heavy meals, especially at lunchtime, aren’t just packed with calories—they can leave you drowsy and looking for a 3 p.m. snack, unless they’re heavy on the whole grains. Limit simple carbs like white breads, rice and pasta and stick to lean proteins and simply prepared veggies to keep your energy up and appetite satisfied the rest of the workday.

Get creative.Think about this: Are there other, non-food things you can do to bond with colleagues? For instance, one of my New York colleagues is hugely into yoga. Once I found that out, I made it a point to suggest that I tag along with her to a class, and grab a coffee afterward. Take in a play, go for a walk or run, try a Zumba class together—if it’s possible. Get your nails done together; meet for coffee. You may be able to connect on an even deeper level with colleagues or your staff if you explore common interests together. Don’t assume that your only option is to break bread—even if it’s whole wheat.