One fine dinner…eating well regardless of location

Posted on December 11, 2009

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Americans eat out. Alot. It’s common to head to the restaurants to celebrate the holidays, to enjoy the company of friends, to mark an anniversary or birthday, and because it’s Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, etc. It’s often the only place where we actually sit down to a table with people we call relatives! Because certainly at home, dinner is often either eaten alone at the table or together on the couch.

And when you’re thinking of how you’re going to slim down, tone up, and be healthier – here is where you have a BIG opportunity! You’re thinking, ‘here’s where she tells us to start eating home cooked meals’, and then “Kate, that’s just not realistic for my life!” So guess what…today we’re not talking about eating at home, because the reality is, you’re going to eat out. So how do you do it well?

First, let’s define “well.” Since some of you may call “eating out well” going to Gibson’s for the biggest porterhouse you can find & asparagus hiding under a river of hollandaise. Here, eating “well” while eating out is defined as finding real food (not 45 ingredient fake chicken as found at some places), with vegetables that still resemble vegetables & calorie-controlled to some degree i.e. no 16 oz. porterhouse – you don’t need that giant steak, your eyes want it.

I recently returned from a Mexican vacation where we did cook home meals quite a bit, but also went out for a few very tasty dinners in the actual town, not just at the resort (although those were very nice too). Here’s how this Gluten-Free lady who eats as natural & organic as possible found ways to avoid chemicals, eat local food, and enjoy plates that were filled with flavor & big enough to enjoy but not so big that I felt stuffed afterwards.

Check out this awesome appetizer we got! Octopus sautéed in a tomato-based broth, with mushrooms, garlic & chili peppers. That broth was so tasty – spicy, lots of flavor, & not full of oil or cream. And you can actually tell that when we ordered octopus, it looks like octopus – not some breaded ball of something called octopus like you will often find in our restaurants. This octopus meat was not overly chewy but cooked just right to give it a somewhat meaty texture, but really it’s taste came from it soaking up all that great tomato flavor & spice!

Normally, I recommend to clients to skip the appetizers – even if they want to get a salad – simply because the calorie count really starts to go up if you’re eating dinner out, have a glass of wine or two, and then to start adding in appetizers or dessert…you’re going to push the calorie count close to or over 1000 calories for that meal alone! But here, we were so hungry from being out on the ziplines all day & apparently at the tequila factory we went to after ziplining, they will feed you tequila but not food.

Next, the main course came. Can you tell I was obsessed with eating seafood that had been caught that day in the Pacific Ocean?? I think I got seafood every chance I could while down there!

Picture it: a warm night. breezy. outdoor seating across from the ‘old town’ historic city center. celine dion mix tape playing on the restaurants’ sound system….And then this arrives in front you. Brandied shrimp spiced with coriander. We’re talking huge shrimp, giant green onions, & hunks of potato all sitting in a thick, spicy sauce. And totally gluten free!

When looking at the menu, search out the proteins & decide on whether you’ll get a better piece of protein for quality & flavor out of beef, fish, chicken or turkey(restaurants rarely do turkey well…if they do turkey burgers, they load them with fat, if they do turkey breast, it’s usually under gravy). Then take into consideration what flavors you’re interested in & after narrowing your choice down, consider how it’s prepared.

Then sit back, relax & enjoy the company you’re with. If you slow down the pace of your dinner, you’ll slow down how fast you eat. One of the reasons we overeat is because we blow past that 80% full signal because we’re eating every bite like it’s our last. You’re eating out for a reason, hopefully it’s to enjoy the company you’re with & the location you’re in. Granted, eating indoors is never as fun as eating outdoors…which is annoying when 8 months out of the year here in Chicago, the only reason you eat outside is if you’re grillmaster for your Super Bowl party in Feb & you’re tasting your steaks.

So you want to try to save your diet & your health by eating “well” i.e. healthy & calorie-controlled & free of processed, chemical junk? Do this. 

Eating out & doing it well: *Skip appetizers unless you’re sharing them & then only if you see something that is either grilled or sautéed. If you really want a salad, order it with dressing on the side & no cheese, if that is a component. *Eat slowly as your digestive process is just beginning so you don’t want to fill up before the actual entrée comes. *You don’t have to finish the appetizer or the entrée OR the dessert!, enjoy a few bites & consider leaving some on the plate or for your dining partners. *Save your calories for food, not fluffy or crusty bread. *Even if you’re a vegan, find a protein source to be your entree…pasta should be relegated to the same fate as the bread basket. *There may be someone you’re dining with…enjoy their company first & the company of your food in your mouth second.

Last thing for this post…you’ve heard it a million times. Leave the bread basket alone. It’s wasted calories. Truly. If you’re going to enjoy excess calories, they sound like they’d be much better spent on wine or dessert if you ask me! The octopus appetizer came with a basket of garlic crusty bread, presumably to mop up all that sauce. It sat untouched at our Gluten Free table and then was piled under another basket of the same garlic bread that came with our entrees. The waiter didn’t understand why we didn’t want the bread. Here’s the Gluten Free lady poo-poohing her basket of bread.

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Posted in: me!, nutrition