For many, the holidays provide a variety of challenging food situations, one of which is that we tend to go out for dinner more often than usual. So I thought it would be a good time to review Hilton Head Health’s Restaurant Survival Guidelines. Reviewing and implementing these guidelines will help you stay on track to make good choices throughout the holiday season.
Managing difficult situations starts with having a good plan, so here are a few things you can do even before you leave the house: If given the opportunity, you choose the restaurant. If you are like me, there are a few of my favorite restaurants where it's easier to make better choices than others. Here in Hilton Head, I can eat well at Bonefish and not so well at Jim and Nick’s Barbeque. If you end up going to a restaurant you are not familiar with, see if their menu is available online. If it is a national chain, chances are the nutritional info will be available as well. Review the menu and decide what you are going to order, you won’t even have to look at the menu. Have a fit bite (formerly known as a metabo meal) a couple of hours before you go out. A growling stomach is the enemy of healthy choices and mindful eating. Finally, leave a couple of minutes early. If you feel rushed or stressed when you get to the restaurant, you’ll eat that way.
When you get to the restaurant, take a couple deep breaths, review your goals and how making healthy choices will help you reach them. If you must check out the menu, this is the perfect time to put the "Unwise, Better, Best" phrase into practice. Scan the menu, mentally categorize the options, ask the server for help if need be. You don’t necessarily have to make one of the best choices, but there is probably one of the 'better options' that you could be happy with. Speaking of making better choices, that is harder to do after a glass of wine or two. Keep in mind that “resolve dissolves in alcohol”. If you want an alcoholic beverage, enjoy it after you have placed your order.
Don’t hesitate to personalize your selections, requests like sauce and salad dressing on the side or veggies steamed plain are common and reasonable. Most restaurants are happy to accommodate them. Since restaurants tend to serve such large portions, go in with a strategy to manage them. Perhaps you could split an entrée, ask for half to go (server brings you half the meal for you to enjoy at the restaurant and brings the other half boxed for you to take home when you are leaving) or order the 6-8 oz. steak instead of the 12 oz. portion. Once the food is served apply the mindful eating techniques you have practiced with Lisette. (if you're a past Guest) concentrate on eating slowly and savoring every bite, including dessert if you choose to indulge. Finally, during the holidays you might be going out with family and friends you may not often see, make the main goal of the dinner to enjoy their company.
The point of all of this is NOT to order minuscule portions of something you don't like; you don't want to leave a restaurant hungry and feeling deprived. That will only set you up to make poor choices later on. The goal is to leave the restaurant feeling satisfied after enjoying a flavorful, portion managed meal that will keep you moving toward achieving your important health goals, even during the challenging holiday season.