The idea of cooking your meals to be in control of your diet is doable about 75% of the time. Yes I admit it; I do not always cook every single meal. I generally plan and prepare all of my meals for the week on Sundays. However, there are times when I go out on dates, have forgotten my lunch at home, or just wanted to go hang out with friends and grab a bite to eat. Eating clean should not keep you from having a social life! Now that I have changed my diet, I find myself being more assertive in choosing restaurants when going on a date. If someone asks me, “Where would you like to go for dinner?” I never respond, “Wherever you would like to go.” I always know which restaurant I would like to go to. Find out what the plans will be for your date, and look up restaurants in that area. Go to the restaurants website and see if you can find any nutrition facts online. Keep a checklist of the best restaurants that use the freshest ingredients or have flexible options.
You will find that most restaurants will have a list of the ingredients that they use listed on their website because of various types of diets, and for allergy purposes. If there is no nutrition facts information listed, feel free to call and ask questions, or ask the chef when you get to the restaurant. Don’t worry about your date looking at you cross-eyed. If it’s meant to be, they will appreciate that you care about what you put into your body. You will want to make sure that the restaurant is not preparing your foods in vegetable oils or butters, and that everything is steamed or baked. Prior to going out with friends, I tend to have a bite to eat at the house just in case wherever we are going does not have many clean options. Having something on my stomach keeps me from making irrational choices. I have put together a list of foods you should be able to order while out on the town on a date or with friends, or in need of a quick bite to eat at just about any restaurant, as well as a few of my favorite restaurants.
1. The Corner Bakery – Spinach Sweet Crisp Salad
What a delicious treat that comes great as served. For added protein, go ahead and add some roasted chicken to your salad. You don’t have to take my word for it! Go to their website and look at the ingredients and nutrition facts. I am not willing to pay for their dessert treats at the gym, so I stay away from them!
2. Jason’s Deli – Nutty Mixed Up Salad w/Light Raspberry Cabernet Vinaigrette
This salad is one of my favorites because the ingredients are whole and natural. Pair this salad with light raspberry vinaigrette and you can enjoy a great lunch or dinner that will fulfill your hunger guilt free.
3. Panera Bread – Fuji Apple Chicken Salad w/ Reduced Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette
This salad is my all-time favorite. Panera is always my first choice for lunch unless my co-workers voice how sick of Panera they are! I have to modify this salad ever so slightly, but it is so damn good! Instead of the White Balsamic Fuji Apple dressing that comes with the salad, I opt for the Reduced Fat Balsamic because it’s less sodium and fewer calories. If I eat this for lunch, I will be full until I get home around 6:30PM!
4. Sushi Restaurants
I recognize not everyone likes raw fish, but I decided to include this in my list for those of us who do. Any sushi restaurant will be a good dinner date choice, especially if you meet someone who is willing to try sushi for first time. Stay away from mayo seasoned sauces, and double up on the pickled ginger. Not eating pickled ginger is one of the reasons why people get sick from eating sushi. It is not a garnish, it is for you to consume between eating different flavors of fish to refresh your palette, and to keep your stomach free of any harmful bacteria from the raw fish. Order your sushi with Genmai brown rice instead of the white sticky rice that normally comes with your sushi. You will find that they have the same amount of calories and carbohydrates, but brown rice is more fulfilling and has more vitamins. Stay away from Tempura which is deep-fried sushi, but offer it to your date if they feel queasy about eating raw fish.
5. Deli Style Restaurants
Stay away from anything deep-fried and anything that comes with melted cheese on it while dining at deli style restaurants. If you must eat a deli sandwich because the food is catered for a luncheon, grab a sandwich made with dark color bread. Hopefully there are no condiments on the sandwiches. Go ahead and feel free to add mustard to your sandwich, but stay away from the mayo. Remember that deli meat is processed and high in sodium so don’t fill up on these sandwiches. Just have enough to tie you over until the meeting is over and you can get something more nutritious. A good rule of thumb is to try to eat anything that looks like it’s still in its natural raw state. I would stay away from grilled chicken because delis tend to prepare these chicken fillets in vegetable oils. No chips, no cookies, but hopefully the option to grab a piece of fruit will be made available to you.
6. Upscale Restaurants
Upscale restaurants tend to have enough variety for one to make wise choices when selecting a menu item. My favorite restaurant is Pappadeaux. I like to order from their Gluten-Free menu because the options are all grilled, steamed, and come blackened without butters. If you order a salad, always ask for a dressing that comes in the form of vinaigrette. Most upscale restaurants will offer a gluten-free menu to you, but if not, ask for a vegetarian menu. Most vegetarian menus will offer you fish items that come grilled or baked. Keep your portions of potatoes small and light while filling up on cocktail shrimp or oysters as an appetizer, and a single glass of wine for dessert!
7. Lounge/Nightclub Food
Ok, here is where things become tricky because the option to change menu items is typically not available at these establishments, nor is there anyone to ask a bunch of questions to about how the food is prepared. For lounge and nightclub foods, you are going to have to go with a full stomach until you have built up enough muscle to handle a small cheat meal. If you must drink alcohol, stick with vodka and tonic, or shots of vodka, clear rum, or tequila. If you need a chaser ask for water with lemon. I do not drink alcohol as much as I used to, but occasionally I’ll toss a few back with the best of them, and I do mean occasionally and not every occasion! When I do drink I plan for it. I go to the gym earlier that day and get a phenomenal workout in that includes supersets of weight lifting and 45 minutes of intense cardio. If you are finding yourself getting hungry while partying with your friends at the club, your options will not vary and chances are a salad will not sound appealing to you at this time. I would go for a grilled chicken sandwich, no mayo, no cheese, and no bread, just meat, mustard, tomato and 2 pieces of lettuce. A grilled burger eaten the same way could also work. Basically, you’ll want to follow a low carb diet during these occasions. Never consume fried foods under any circumstances as if it goes against your religion!
8. Party Platter Foods
If you are ever at a fundraising event, house party, or gathering of any sort, you will run across party platters of food available to you as a guest. Feel free to indulge. These get togethers are for the sake of mingling, and are not dinner parties. Therefore, eating a tiny square of cheesecake will not kill you. I recommend getting a plate and putting little tastes of indulgences on it so that you are aware of how much you are eating. One little square is not a big deal, but five little squares in addition to all the other little squares of foods can become trouble. Never go to these events hungry to avoid over indulging. Have fun, mingle, and enjoy networking with like-minded people.
9. “Smorgage Brauds”/ Buffets
One thing that I have not shared with my online community is how I grew up on buffets as a child. My father loves buffets. He says, “All of you have different diets. Some of you want fried chicken; some of you want grilled chicken. At Golden Coral I only have to spend $9.99 for each person, and you all can pick whatever you want to eat and have dessert!” So to the Old Country Buffet, Ponderosa, or Golden Coral we would go. I would fill up on yeast rolls with honey butter and pizza, and for dessert eat banana pudding. Then sneak a handful of gummy bears out the door! No wonder they called me “Thunder Thighs” growing up as a kid!
Now days my father is getting older and I want to spend as much time as I can with him. Therefore, I have to go to these buffets with him from time to time just like the good old days. But now that I am wiser, I make fresher selections while dining out. I chose foods such as salads with grilled chicken, roasted beef with no gravy, green beans. I follow a low-carb diet while at these places, with the exception of fruit for dessert. If you and your family are smorgage braud people, or you are now after reading my father’s logic behind it all, understand one thing; the original intent of a buffet is for people to be able to serve themselves, and create their own meal. Please don’t go and eat all you can eat. If it cost you less than $15 for a plate of food and dessert, you got a good deal. Don’t force yourself to keep eating because you paid $15 to eat all you can eat. You paid $15 for the convenience of options and choices.
10. Outdoor Events: Carnivals, Amusement Parks, Game Events, etc…
These types of events are like the ying and the yang of my life. On one hand they are so much fun and you can’t wait to go and be like a kid again. Yet the smells of onion rings and sight of candy apples are just about irresistible. The foods make trying to stick to a lifestyle of clean eating become obsolete for that particular moment in time. When the option to go to these events arises go ahead and take life by the horns, but take a friend with you. In fact, take a bunch of friends with you. That way you all can split that order of onion rings. Bring a date and have fun eating that candy apple together like Lady and the Tramp did with the plate of spaghetti. The other option is to pack your own snacks. Fill up your purse with items such as granola, sunflower seeds, protein bars, seaweed packages, sweet potato chips, etc…The prices for foods at amusement parks make this a much more cost efficient way of dealing with your hunger pains anyway.
I can honestly say that I spend about 80% of the time eating super clean. Therefore, I can afford to spend 20% of my time eating sort of clean. The beauty about nutrition is that is does not have to be stressful because it truly is a lifestyle. I hope that this information helps you while you’re out enjoying your lives.