During both of my weight loss rampages, I still ate at restaurants frequently. I even lost 20 pounds while working and eating at Taco Bell every day! Now, having a lot less mobility and a lot more pain, eating out is almost a necessity for us. For example, leaving church on Sunday, my husband and I took separate cars because he had to go straight to work. My hips and legs were hurting so bad I was holding back tears. But in the back seat I had two hungry kids (and a hungry me). There was no way I was going to be able to get around the kitchen to even make sandwiches. So we hit the Taco Bell drive thru instead, and watched a movie in the car while we ate.
Scenarios like that happen far too often at our house. Sometimes my husband is home with me, so he cooks, but being a cook at work, he cooks all day, and sometimes he just doesn’t want to. My daughter is also a big help, but at 8 years old, I don’t want her childhood to be about taking care of mom and little brother. So we eat out more than most people (or at least it seems that way). For a long time I felt guilty, because of the extra cost and the fact that it might not be as healthy as cooking at home, but with the help of a friend (Shout out to Mrs. C!) I decided that I wasn’t going to feel guilty anymore, I was just going to do what I needed to do to take care of my family, even when that meant doing things a different way than most.
I have never enjoyed cooking. It was kind of drilled in to me as a teen that I need to cook and learn to like it because when I get married and have kids, I will have to cook. So I tried, and I would get frustrated because it hurt, and it took so long, and then of course, you have to clean up afterward. So a couple hours of painful cooking and cleaning, for a meal that was gone in 20 minutes. Ordering pizza just seems a lot less painful, and a lot more enjoyable. Luckily, my husband and kids don’t care that I’m not a 50’s housewife kinda girl. I’m kind of glad that I never liked cooking, because it would be one more thing that I wished I could do. Instead, I can see part of the blessing in my disability: I have a good excuse not to do something that I hate doing anyway.
So that was kind of a tangent, but this is a disability blog, so I feel like the disability aspect is important.
Anyway, it is totally possible to stay on track eating right at restaurants. Here are a few rules I follow:
- No matter what you choose off the menu, STOP WHEN YOU’RE FULL. I know, it’s just. So. Good. But the leftovers will be good tomorrow when you heat them for lunch.
- Have some fruits or veggies with your meal (fries don’t count. Anything deep fried doesn’t count). It doesn’t have to be anything complicated; it’s as simple as having tomato, onion, and lettuce on your burger, or salsa and guacamole with your quesadilla.
- Look at the menus nutrition guide if available. Most fast food places have them. Even Starbucks has one. Sit-down restaurants will sometimes list calorie counts next to menu items. 500-700 calories = good. 1,000 calories or more = bad. (This is for a meal, if you are just having coffee and desert, the counts should be much lower)
- Grilled or baked, good. Fried or crispy, bad. I don’t think I need to explain that one.
- Don’t be afraid of cheese. Just don’t ask for extra. Cheese has nutritional value. Remember, we’re making lifestyle changes. Are you going to go the rest of your life without cheese? Didn’t think so.
- Think outside the mayo jar. Mayonnaise is bad for you. No nutritional value, lots of fat and calories. Get creative with your condiments. Burgers are fine with just mustard and ketchup. Guacamole & BBQ sauce make a great western burger. Balsamic vinegar is awesome on a chicken sandwich.
- Trade in your French fries. The day when you could only get fries with your burger or nacho cheese sauce for your chips is gone. Try a healthy side like yogurt or fruit instead of fries. Ask for salsa and guacamole instead of nacho cheese. Gotta get that fry fix? Steal just a few from your husband (or kid or friend)!
- The same goes for sour cream and salad dressings. Ditch the sour cream for guacamole. Still creamy, and packed with nutritional value. Cream based salad dressings are bad. Choose balsamic vinegar (good for you!) or olive oil and lime (also good for you).
- Starbucks? Ask for nonfat milk. What about sugar free? Artificial sweeteners are chemically altered. They are carcinogens (shown to increase risk of cancer). Also, there have been tons of studies that show that they don’t help weight loss. Stick to the real stuff in moderation.
- Starbucks pastry? loaf. Their reduced fat pastries are better than the regular ones! Or pick something with nutrients, like pumpkin or banana nut.
- Pizza can be good for you! Especially if you order a thin crust vegetarian special. If you have to have meat, Canadian bacon (or ham) is your best bet. It has a surprisingly low fat and calorie count. If you don’t like all the veggies, just add the ones that you do like. Love Hawaiian? Just ask for Canadian bacon and pineapple instead. Hawaiian has extra cheese. If you don’t like thin crust, don’t beat yourself up; order pan. Ask for whole wheat crust where available, and don’t forget to sprinkle those little crushed pepper packets! So good for you, and a metabolism booster!
Eating healthy at restaurants doesn’t require a degree in nutrition, just a combination of common sense and creativity. Later in the week I’ll post some of my favorite weight-loss-friendly menu items 🙂 Now go hit a drive thru!