social food environmentDoes your social life revolve around happy hours, restaurant dinners, lunch dates, coffee-and-pastry meetups and Sunday brunches? This can interfere with your healthy eating goals—but it doesn’t have to.

Dining Out Strategies

The more you eat out in restaurants, the more important it is to learn how to pick restaurants wisely and/or order smartly off the menu. Because most restaurants have websites, I like to “predecide” what I’ll order by looking at both menus online, and determining what to will be both delicious and in line with my nutritional goals. You can also think of this as “advance mental ordering.” This preplanning helps avoid unhealthy impulse ordering, and is is especially helpful when you have no say in the choice of restaurant.

If you seldom dine out, you have two options:

  • Splurge. Order whatever you want, and enjoy it guilt-free by making a point to eat lightly and healthfully that day (and possibly the day before and after, depending on how decadent the meal will be), focusing on veggies, fruits and lean protein.
  • Status quo. Order a meal that closely mirrors the type of meal you would normally eat at home.

You can also consider food-alternative outings. Instead of chatting with a friend or colleague in a coffee shop with a latte and a huge 500-calorie scone, suggest grabbing coffee to go and then burning off a few extra calories with a little walk.

Don’t Entertain A Gut Bomb

Even though I didn’t appreciate it at the time, I am now very grateful that my parents were not in the habit of ordering popcorn and soda and candy when we went to the movie theater. That means I don’t have a Pavlovian need to load up on a sugar-salt-fat combo every time I catch the latest rom-com or thriller. I don’t make it to the movie theater as often as I used to, but when I do the only substance that generally passes my lips is water I bring from home.

Movie theaters, sports venues, concerts…do you really need to eat something to enjoy the main event? Think about it.

I’m willing to bet that most people who eat the often-crappy food at these places do so out of habit, not because they are hungry. And if hunger is an issue, there’s always a way around it. Eat beforehand, or bring your own snack. Nuts and fruit! Nuts and fruit! Heck, even a “power” bar is a better choice than nachos, garlic fries or an elephant ear. Yeah, gut bombs all!

P.S. If you haven’t already, you check out Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of the “Save the (Food) Environment” series.