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Week 18: Healthy Eating When You’re Not the Chef

At home, you’re in charge of what you eat…but it gets more difficult to eat right when someone else is doing the cooking.

Let’s face it: making clean and healthy eating choices when we are not in charge of the food preparation or menus presents a challenge. But hey, we’re up for the challenge, right? Parties, family gatherings, work functions, travel, and eating out at restaurants are a fact of life for most of us. Even if we do our best to select lean proteins, piles of veggies, and minimally processed grains/starches, restaurants and caterers often pack on the margarine and other taste-enhancing caloric demons. (Remember, the restaurants primary objective is to get you coming back and they do it with tasty food.)

It’s important to take a few extra steps to stay on track while still enjoying special meals that we’re not preparing ourselves.

Eating Healthy Means Making Smart Choices

We’re not suggesting you skip some of life’s most simple pleasures like tailgate parties, neighborhood BBQs, Sunday brunches with family, or other events that tend to be centered around food. Nor are we recommending you never eat out at restaurants again!

But it is important to remember, “Every Occasion is not a Special Occasion.” Yes, we will all have our “Special Occasion Cheat Meals,” and life without pizza or a loaded cheeseburger every so often is tough for most of us to fathom, but these meals need to be few and far between. To stay on track, you must apply restraint and conviction when making choices with all other “occasions.”

If you’ve made it a goal to eat healthy and you’re doing well on your journey, it’s important to make smart choices so that: 1) you won’t get too far off track that you get discouraged and never get back on track; and 2) you feel a sense of accomplishment about the choices you make.

But how? You need to take some steps in advance of a gathering or a night out as well as during your event to be sure to make the best possible choices.

To help you choose wisely, we’ve provided three examples of when you would most likely be faced with choices:

1. Breakfast at a Diner

2. A Tailgate Party or Backyard Family BBQ

3. Dinner Out with Friends

Ten “Keeping it Clean” Tips for Eating Out

1. Do your homework — know the restaurant’s menu in advance (often they are posted on the restaurant’s website) and think about your healthy choices before you arrive.

2. If the server doesn’t bring it automatically, ask for water…and drink it with your meal.

3. Say NO to most appetizers or order a house salad if you want something before the meal (unfavorable appetizers can set the tone for a gluttonous meal).

4. Avoid butter, margarine, sauces and salt as add-ons to your food.

5. Don’t be a member of the “Clean Plate Club” — it’s okay to go home with leftovers.

6. If you order grains/starches, stick with complex carbohydrates such as “plain” Sweet Potatoes, Brown Rice, Couscous, etc.

7. Ask for dressings or sauces on the side and use them sparingly. Remember a couple of tablespoons of oil rich/creamy salad dressing may add over 200 calories to your well-thought-out salad.

8. DON’T BE AFRAID to ask your server if you can order something healthy that may NOT be listed on the menu…most restaurants can prepare something similar to grilled chicken, steamed veggies, and a sweet potato.

9. Focus on the fact that eating out is really about sharing time with friends and family, rather than the food itself.

10. Take pride in how good you feel at the end of that cleanly eaten meal!

Pep Talk

Yes, we realize the lifestyle of eating we’re suggesting may be viewed as boring or even deprivation. Well, saying it’s “boring” can be another way of saying we’re spoiled (as in we’ve become accustomed to eating everything that’s sultry, savory and sweet rather than for simply sustenance). And deprivation? Most of us here in America truly do not know deprivation when so many across the world would be grateful for a plain bowl of rice.

Remember “Every Occasion is not a Special Occasion.”

Week 18 Quiz:

1) Which of the following are “Keeping it Clean” Tips for Eating Out? a) DON’T BE AFRAID to ask your server if you can order something that's not on the menu b) avoid butter and salt as add-ons to your food c) ask for water and drink it with your meal d) all of the above

2) To eat healthy, you must NEVER eat things like pizza and cheeseburgers. a) True b) False

3) Let's say you're at a tailgate or backyard BBQ, which of the following would be the lowest calorie meal to choose? a) fried chicken, potato salad, brownies b) cheeseburger, pasta salad, buttered corn on the cob c) hamburger, lettuce wrap, salad greens, fruit salad d) cheeseburger, potato salad, beer

4) So, you're out with family for breakfast and you want to make healthy choices; which of the following is the best meal to order? a) 2 poached eggs with plain rye toast b) 2 fried eggs with a blueberry muffin c) 2 bacon strips and 2 sausage links with hash browns d) all of the above

Once you've taken the quiz, click here to see how you did.


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