Such an important topic. Whatever “diet” you follow… real food, clean eating, Ketogenic Diet, Keto Life, native eating, Metabolic Typing, Paleo, Gluten Free, Sugar Free and so much more…. Eating out at a restaurant should really be an enjoyable experience, yet for many of us, it can seriously feel like “the devil!” This is Dani Conway, Sacramento CA Nutritionist on the very important topic of restaurants because restaurant eating can bring up so many emotions – and not good ones – from scary to frustrating to anxiety, and more. A lot of times it can even start with feelings of mania, excitement, happiness, and enjoyment before and while you’re there; and then those feelings quickly turn into guilt, disappointment, or even anger. Did you have a plan when you walked in and because of “peer pressure,” or family pressure, those plans quickly went out the window leaving you feeling upset with yourself, along with many of the other emotions I already mentioned. If any of this sounds familiar, you’re definitely not alone. I’ve experienced it too.
While I do give some very specific and easy to follow guidelines to my private clients, I felt it necessary to have a blog post on this topic with some tips for you all to enjoy! While these may not be perfect, their purpose is to get you to begin opening up your thought process and be able to relax in a restaurant while ordering and powerfully choosing something healthful at the same time.
Here are the absolute best SUCCESS tips for eating Low Carb + Keto in a restaurant!
- You almost always are going to know where you’re going ahead of time, so, “Google it!” …look up their menu and get an idea of the selections beforehand.
- Get your spouse, partner, best friend or family members “on board” with whatever your needs are before hand. Now, this may not be something that happens over night but more of a “work in progress.” Enroll those important people in your life into what your needs are for good health!
- Most restaurants these days are very savvy in the area of dietary needs – gluten free, keto diet, sugar free, dairy free, etc. That said, as mentioned, gluten is a great example. Many restaurants even have a Gluten Free Menu that is delicious and often there is not much difference in flavor of those items from the regular menu. PF Chang’s is a great example!
- If a restaurant does not have a specialty menu like this, THINK BEYOND THE MENU!! View the menu as a grocery list instead of meals that are already put together. While they created options with items that they feel go best together, it does not mean that YOU can’t mix, match and mix it up!
- Utilize the “Protein First” rule to set yourself up for success! If you select an appetizer, go for something protein based… Seared Ahi, Chicken Skewers, Shrimp Cocktail or even a Shrimp Ceviche. Eating protein first will satiate you sooner and not leave you craving sugar or carbs like bread and butter or a fried appetizer definitely will.
- While I do agree with drinking water as opposed to other sugary beverages, I don’t think it’s realistic to say “just drink water before your meal is served.” This leaves you sitting at the table and likely watching, or should I say salivating over everyone else chowing down on appetizers before your food arrives. This is definitely a set up … for failure!
- …You could though request some lemon for your water, or even choose sparkling water with lemon or lime to kick it up a notch, and at the same time, not waste those calories on unnecessary beverages. Prioritize!
- Enroll your server… meaning, make friends with him or her! Let them know you have some dietary needs and ask for suggestions. Remember, not only do those servers likely eat often at their place of work, but they also get feedback all day long from their customers. They definitely know what the popular items are!
- Share a meal or split it in half when the plate arrives and box the other half right away to take home and have for lunch the next day! Boxing it up right away avoids giving you the temptation. Restaurants these days are serving HUGE portions. While it might be appealing to just eat until you’re full, think about having the opportunity to enjoy that same meal twice~
- Focus on the “company.” While we do go out to eat for many reasons, including getting a break from our own kitchen, needing a change from what we’re used to eating, etc. etc., try to keep focused on those family and friends that you’re with and really connect with them, rather than only focusing on the food part of the experience. That is definitely important because we know food is wonderful, though it is so common that our “need for food” is actually a “need for human connection.”
This is not to say that every restaurant experience is going to be perfect. However, pretty much all restaurants have meat, fish, veggies to choose from and you can always request a side of butter or olive oil. These are great suggestions if you follow more of a keto nutrition style of eating!
Get creative… good luck! As always, feel free to drop me a note Dani at Nutrition the Natural Way .com with questions.