Whether it’s with friends, family, or a large social circle, eating out constantly and trying to balance a healthy lifestyle can become challenging. I never want my clients to get suckered into an “all in” or “all out” mindset when it comes to health and nutrition, but instead realize they can have their cake and eat it too.
When placing intention on making the base of your diet come from plant sources, the lifestyle doesn’t stop as soon as you step into a restaurant. Adding vegetable sources onto your plate will look different in every outing. For example, ordering a side salad with your pizza or a side dish of your favorite colorful veggie would more than suffice! Remember, vegetables are a great fiber source keeping us feeling fuller longer, and contain powerful health properties to combat inflammation and stress on our bodies.
We have feelings of hunger and fullness thanks to various hormones in our body which allows our gut to communicate its needs to our brain. Let me introduce you to a few of these hormones…Ghrelin and ILP-5 stimulate hunger. CCK, GLP-1, leptin, amylin, pancreatic polypeptide, and insulin all stimulate the feeling of fullness. So would you believe me if I told you it actually takes us about 20 minutes to feel full? YEP- that’s right. This is how long it takes for the hormones in our stomach and intestines to reach our brain and say “I’m full”. Would you also believe me if I said the average amount of time it takes humans to eat a meal is 7-11 minutes? (1) (2) I think you now see my reason for concern and, thus, tip #2.
Yes, alcohol does contain calories- specifically 7 per gram. I get this question a lot and to put this number into comparison, carbohydrates and proteins have 4 calories per gram and fat has 9 calories per gram. When choosing to drink alcohol during a night out, simply be aware that the drink is fairly calorie dense and may contain added sweeteners. I am not saying don’t go for your favorite cocktail! Just reminding you to drink mindfully in the type and amount. For your added knowledge the recommended daily average of alcohol for men is 2 drinks per day, and for women one drink per day.
In today’s social media culture it can almost become “cooler” to snap that perfect picture of a trendy menu item rather than connect with those around you. Food is an element and you have the choice to decide what makes the night. Placing intention and focus on the relationship you’re building during the evening and the depth of conversation is usually more fulfilling and will have a longer lasting impact on you. So enjoy the people who surround you and remember that food is not always the sole focus.
In an effort to listen more to our bodies, remember that you don’t have to eat everything on your plate. Yes, I’m going against everything your parents told you as a child, but for good reason! Portion sizes at restaurants are typically expanded and not always accurate for individual needs. Therefore, it’s a good thing we have our gut hormones to tell us when is! So don’t be afraid to ask for a to-go box and save the rest for tomorrow.
It’s common for people to want to skip meals during the day to “save up” calories, and then unload them during their night out. This may seem like a good idea in theory, but typically leads to excessive overeating past our bodies normal feeling of fullness and storing excess food as fat storage. I recommend nourishing your body regularly throughout the day, and listening to hunger cues at dinner. Remember you don’t have to finish all the food on your plate and a to-go box is always an option.
Because it takes 20 minutes for our brains to tell us we’re full, we may not realize our satiety levels until long after we’ve finished our meal. Additionally, food served at restaurants is typically higher in salt, fat, and cholesterol, so eating until you’re 80% full may be a good mentality for you to have. If you feel satisfied, your hunger cues are telling you you’re full, then stop eating and enjoy the other aspects to your evening such as conversations and experiences. Additionally, if you decide you want to enjoy a dessert afterwards then you won’t have to be rolled out of the restaurant!
Every color has a wonderful function, and the more we can eat the better! When picking out menu items, side dishes, salads, or items on a buffet try and get as many colors onto your plate as possible. You will rest in the satisfaction of knowing each food has a powerful function to carry out in your body and that you are nourishing it the way it’s desiring. This may even challenge you to try a new food item you wouldn’t otherwise have!
It’s a well known fact that we eat with our senses, so if you look at the menu items without the sight and smells of the environment it may lead you to make different choices. Before going to a new restaurant google search the menu and make a game plan before temptation ever hits.
One dinner, one night, one dessert, one extra drink will not ruin your goals. Remember nutrition isn’t a strive for perfection! Nutrition is one component within the realm of health and also included is mental health, social community, physical activity, sleep, hydration, and more. Be present with those around you, enjoy the cake during the party, live without fear, and remember change both positive and negative occurs over time- not in one day.