Americans eat out on average 5 times per week for lunch and dinner. That’s 24% of your 21 weekly meals (3 meals per day for 7 days)!
Most restaurant meals clock in at least 1,200 calories whereas the average person should eat around 400 – 700 calories per meal. Your choices when eating out can make a BIG impact on your overall nutrition intake for better or worse.
Being purposeful for even 3 of those 5 meals out can help you make progress on your health goals. We will start with remembering WHY you are doing this in the first place.
First Step – Think of your long-term goals in light of short term (lunch or dinner plan) situations.
Knowing the big WHY can help you prioritize their importance.
Will this meal help or hinder me from meeting my goal of being able to play on the floor with my children or grandchildren?
Will this appetizer help me to keep my cholesterol and blood sugar within range to allow me to enjoy a better-quality life as I age?
Will this lunch allow me to feel my best and be able to focus on my passions (career, hobby, family, service)?
Will this choice allow me to reach my goal of wanting to hike a beautiful trail or explore new areas on vacation?
Is the pain and inconvenience of foods that don’t digest well in my body worth the momentary taste?
Keep those WHY’s present and visible. Post them in your house, bathroom, phone reminders, or your journal. Little choices are easier when you know what big things you are aiming for!
Second Step – Think backwards on the impact the meal will have on the rest of your day.
Will this super greasy food affect my digestion and how I feel for the rest of the afternoon?
Will eating out several times per day or heavier options at one meal (appetizers, rich entrée and dessert) be enjoyable? Think about how you felt in the past making that choice.
Think reverse chronologically! Plan to succeed with a game plan.
If you really want to enjoy a specific appetizer or delicious dessert, eat lighter options before and as your entrée to allow you to meet your long-term goal.
If you want a certain heavier entrée, skip the appetizers, desserts, and liquid calories from your beverage choice.
It’s all about balancing your choices to meet a short-term goal (eating a certain entrée and staying within your nutrient needs in a day) and long-term goal (having less pain moving with less weight on your joints). Think about the whole day – choose fruit and vegetable rich meals for breakfast and lunch if lunch will be eaten out with more grains and protein.
After you decide on an entrée and the waiter/waitress asks “Are you ready to order?” use the 15 second rule:
Take 15 seconds to re-examine your choice to make it in line with your health goals?
Your taste buds or stomach will choose something different that a little time and purposefulness can re-evaluate!
Maybe you don’t want the appetizer with the heavier meal or maybe you want to change a side to steamed vegetables or green salad.
Giving yourself some extra time and remember the big WHY behind your goals will help you make a better choice.
My next blog post will provide some more helpful tips for eating out! Making new choices can be hard to implement in the beginning. I will discuss some common pitfalls and tips when eating at restaurants.