Last Saturday, I was gone for a good chunk of the day. I went to Guelph to meet a friend for lunch, then was meeting another friend for coffee later in the afternoon. It was up to my friend to pick the restaurant for lunch, so that was beyond my control. I couldn’t research options ahead of time, so I opted to just relax, go with the flow, and enjoy my day out. Here’s how I did it and made healthy choices while still enjoying the day.
As soon as I got up, I was already mentally planning out my day. I started with a healthy breakfast. When you know you’ll be eating out later in the day and may not be able to make the healthiest choices, it’s always important to start with something that is healthy and filling, but lower in calories. I opted for a toasted 100 calorie bun with cinnamon and Splenda, topped with 1/4 cup light ricotta mixed with Splenda and vanilla extract, and an apple cooked with water and cinnamon. On the side, I enjoyed a pumpkin spice latte. I enjoyed the flavours of breakfast, yet it was quite healthy and a great start to my day.
I also made sure to fit in exercise by going to a Military Tone class at the gym. Exercise is a great way to ward of any extra calories that come with dining out. And by going first thing in the morning, it was out of the way so I could enjoy the rest of my day.
Since my friend had lived in Guelph, it made sense for her to pick the restaurant. Thankfully, I lucked out with her choice. We went to this cozy little bakery and cafe called With the Grain. It had lots of healthy/vegetarian offerings, and even free samples of dessert ( 🙂 Score!). I ordered the vegetarian chili – which I figured was a safe bet for a healthy choice. I made a couple of tweaks to make it even healthier. I refused the sour cream and cheese that were offered (most likely they wouldn’t be reduced-fat, and I had no way of controlling the portion size) and also said no to bread and butter on the side. While I enjoy both of these things, it’s best to say no when dining out if you want to keep calories in check. By refusing them when I ordered, I eliminated the temptation of picking at them, since they wouldn’t even be on my plate. That’s one great strategy for dining out – keep it simple. Unless they’re fruits or vegetables, extra add-ons usually mean extra calories, often with little or no nutritional value. Strip a dish down to its simplest form to cut calories off your meal. The chili was also a great choice because it probably had at least 2 servings of vegetables, a food group that is easy to miss when dining out.
While waiting in line, we sampled a lemon square…YUM! And as you know, I’m not one to say no to dessert. So when my friend suggested we split one, I couldn’t turn her down. But I was not about to let dessert derail my day. I ate slowly and savoured every bite – that was one tasty lemon square! By sharing with a friend, I could enjoy dessert while cutting my calories in half – everyone wins! Sharing an entree or dessert is a time-honoured and trusty way to enjoy restaurant favourites with less calories.
Later on in the day, I met another friend for coffee at Starbucks. This place makes it SO easy to drink healthy. All their nutritional info is online and they have a good selection of “skinny” drinks. I chose the newest skinny offering – the skinny Caramel Macchiato. I love all the skinny drinks, because you can go out and order something kind of fancy, that you wouldn’t make at home, and still keep calories in check. And since the menu is the same at all Starbucks, you know you’re guaranteed a healthy option, no matter what location you go to. The caramel macchiato is a bit of an upgrade from my usual skinny latte, as it comes with a decadent caramel drizzle on top – delish! An added bonus? The tall size of Starbucks’ lattes and macchiatos has about one serving of dairy. Delicious, low-cal and calcium-filled? Win, win, win!
I knew when I planned my day that I’d be on the road around the supper hour. I left Guelph for home at about 5:45, and since it’s about a 90 minute drive (more last night since the weather was bad), it would be after supper when I got home. Knowing that, I packed a couple of “emergency snacks” that I could eat in the car if the need arose. When I get overly hungry, I can have the munchies all day long, so I prevented this by eating the apple I packed on the way home. Although I was still hungry when I got home, the fiber in the apple helped satisfy me until my late supper.
To counter my splurges of the day, I made a small supper. When I’ve been out all day and eating more calories than usual at lunch, I balance that by reducing the typical amount of calories in my evening meal. At the end of the day, I had enjoyed time with friends, eaten delicious food, and felt good about the choices I made.
So there you have a few of my tips for navigating a day of being out and about while still eating healthily. As I always stress, I am not perfect. For all the times I eat out and make healthy choices, there are probably two times I have made choices I later regret. But like any other aspect of healthy eating – one day at a time. I hope if you’re out this weekend, these tips can help you. Have any great tips for eating healthy while dining out? Leave them in the comments section below, so we can all benefit from your knowledge!