Eating out at restaurants or events is one of the most challenging feats to your eating plan. Not only do you not have any certainty of what will be on offer, but additonally, not all restaurants offer food that is low carb or low sugar. Not all restraurants are wiling or able to change their menu items to suit your preferences. Event catering is predetermined and you won’t know what they have on offer until you see it.
Generally, I think that at the start of any new diet or eating plan, it’s best to outright avoid public places that are likely to throw you off course. This gives you some time to adjust to the changes while having full control over what you’re eating, until you are ready and informed enough to face all that the world has to offer.
My guide to eating out successfully, without going off course, is made up of some things you can do before leaving your home, some pre-planning you can do for the event and lastly, things you can resort to once you find yourself there.
Eat at home before hand so you don’t have to eat out at all
Now of course this works best for when you are going out to events, and not quite that well if you are meeting with people specifically for the purpose of socialising over a meal together. Even when you are meeting over a meal, I still think that having something small at home before going out, will moderate your appetite and you’ll end up having a starter portion from the menu instead of a full-on meal, which is better. If after eating at home, all you are left with is the option of drinking water, tea of coffee at the restaurant, you are far better off than being at the mercy of a menu that might derail you.
Take pre-packs of some of your favourites
If you would normally get derailed by having to put sugar in your tea, take some sugar alternatives like stevia sweetner, xylitol or erythritol with you. There are now wide options available, in sachets and small sweenter packs for low carb sugar alternatives, and you never need to be caught without one. If you enjoy condiments over your food such as salad dressing, sauces etc, then prepackage the low carb alternatives for those in small containers and take them with you in your bag.
Skip the entrée bread basket
Most restaurants start you off with a complimentary bread basket. Just don’t eat it. Simple as that. If it helps you, ask the waiter to take it away entirely so you don’t even see it. Even better is to ask the waiter to not to bring it to the table at all. If bread is your weakness, and the bread backet is brought to the table for everyone else at your table, take this opportunity to get up and go find the bathroom or, something else, while they chow down. Do what you need to , but certainly don’t start any meal EVER with blank carbs like bread.
Drink a tall glass of water before you start eating
This sounds simple, but is often overlooked. Before you start eating your meal, make sure you are well hydrated by drinking down a TALL glass of water (i.e. at least 300ml). Most of the time, thirst disguses itself in hunger signalling, so drinking water will make sure that any hunger you do feel is not actually thirst. It also will perform the dual function of satiating you and thereby moderating your appetite and you’ll end up eating less than you would have otherwise. I advise that you drink water before the starter, and again before the main meal, and you will find that you are not at all hungry and therefore you can happily skip dessert.
First evaluate the menu for clean protein
When looking through a menu, the first thing you should look for is clean protein. By clean, I mean uncoated, unsauced etc. Try to find chicken, beef or any other protein, then see what you can pair it with.
Add green veges as fillers
After you have selected your protein, try to fill your plate with green vegetables. This can be in the form of a salad, steamed or roasted greens, avo etc. By all means, try to avoid stacking your plate with starchy veges like corn and potatoes (chips, mashed roasted etc). These are metabolised directly as sugar and will not serve your goals at all. If the green vegetable options are not very good, most salads are more than sufficient for filling up your plate.
Skip the dessert
In place of dessert, ask for a cheese board without the crackers, or aternatlively have a herbal tea. If skipping dessert is for whatever reason, not possible, then opt to share one instead of having an entire protion to yourself.
Limit the alcohol intake
Alcohol generally tends to lower your inhibitions. You are far more likely to end up indulging in something you don’t want to, after drinking some alcohol. If you do end up consuming alcohol, keep it to one glass and not more. Add some ice to it to dilute it and sip it slowly to extend the drinking time, and to prevent immediately feel like you need to top-up your glass. A really good tip is to drink a glass of water after each glass of alcohol, to help your liver better process with the load.
To close off, if you have been diligent with your efforts the whole week, it will not be worth your while to ruin all your progress over one meal. If you have specific goals that you are working towards, a little bit of planning and some mindfulness will go a long way to keeping you on track. Eating out and other social situations do not need to be a source of anxiety, when you are eating low carb, and can effectively be navigated without even anyone else realising it.
Having said this, never allow a diet of any kind to get in the way of you enjoying life. If you know that you will be attending a birthday party, a wedding or have a special event out with friends and you really just want to relax and not worry about your diet, then plan accordingly. Enjoy your meal and then plan for a quicker recovery by scheduling a fast for the next day, follow a liver detox protocol, drink tons of water and taking it easy. Allowing youself a “cheat” meal does not mean you need to binge and stuff your face with every carb and sugar in sight. Enjoy it moderately and the recovery will be easier.
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