Recently, whilst visiting a restaurant (fine, it was date night with my husband), I did something ridiculously stupid.
Something so dumb I wanted to punch myself a little afterwards.
I should have known better, especially considering what I do for a living…
I should have asked what, exactly, was in the “basil crust” on the cod I just ordered.
I should have checked an extra time about the sauce it came with, too.
But hey, that didn’t happen this time, so no point in regretting it now.
The crust was full of bread crumbs, and the sauce definitely had wheat flour in it, too. And as you know, I try to avoid that as much as I can to keep healthy and keep my energy levels as far up as I possibly can. Along with all grains, most dairy, soy, and legumes.
The following day was not pretty anywhere, I felt awful and couldn’t do anything about it. My body was sort of poisoned, because I otherwise keep my food very clean. This is definitely something I want to avoid in the future, like I have most of the time in the past few years.
So, I thought you could learn from my mistake here. I thought about it long and hard and came up with 6 tips on how to navigate a restaurant menu whilst still keeping it healthy and good for you. (Note: this is not a list of ingredients to avoid etc, as that is a very personal choice and knowledge. This is more a roadmap on how to navigate a menu.)
The GrainBrain Quick 6 Tips On How To Eat At Restaurants:
1. Don’t show up starving
Yes, half, or even more, of the point of going to a restaurant is because you’re hungry.
But, see, if you go there absolutely famished and more or less on the verge of passing out, you’re going to make rushed decisions and very likely bad choices, JUST so you can get your food quicker. Which is definitely not worth it. (And also my problem in the date night scenario above)
Have a small snack before leaving your house, or something with your pre-dinner glass of bubbly. Things like nuts, olives, some cheese or cold cuts will curb your immediate hunger, leaving you a little more time to make a better decision.
2. Decide what you want
Step 2 is to decide what do you feel like having at this particular restaurant.
Fish? Beef? Or is this more of a vegetarian meal or day? Do you want a starter? If so, what would that be? Soup? Salad? Your absolute favourite thing that only this restaurant serves?
Scan the menu carefully for the things you feel like having. Then move on to step number 3.
3. Can that be healthi-fied?
Instead of “can I have fries with that?”, think “how can I improve this meal so that it suits my needs?”
I’ve made this question into a game for myself, taking pride in healthi-fying meals. This takes a bit of getting used to, and some extra knowledge, but don’t fret, I’m confident you can do it!
What comes with that steak, fries? Order vegetables instead. Still haven’t found a restaurant that isn’t willing to help out in that situation.
4. Order off the menu
You can’t find ANYTHING health-fiable at all on that menu? Not even a little bit?
Go off the grid/menu, if you want to be sure. Order parts of other meals, the meat from the chicken burrito with the vegetables from the vegetable fajitas with a side of guacamole, for example. Or the steak with the seasonal vegetables that normally come with the fish, and herb butter.
You need to get creative here, but in the end it’s definitely worth it. Your health is at stake, and a badly planned menu shouldn’t be in the way of keeping up your otherwise excellent health work.
5. Dare to ask
This is definitely the key point to this mini-guide: dare to ask.
Dare to ask what’s in that “basil crust” (see example above). Dare to ask if that sauce is home made or comes from a bag. Dare to ask what they mix into their house blend of spices. Or if they batter the fried fish with anything.
If you don’t get the answer you were hoping for, ask (again) if they can prepare the dish without your less-desired ingredient, or choose another dish. Simple as that.
The good old saying “the customer is always right” really works in your favour here, because as long as you’re the paying part, you generally get very far with what you ask for.
Also, dare to be “that” person in the group. They’ll get used to it. Or you just need new friends. 😉 Seriously though, this is about your life and your health, and if you ask a few extra questions in a restaurant so that can keep you up and running for longer, that’s just awesome. Take pride in that, whilst everyone else feels like crap because they ate something they shouldn’t have.
Take the pressure off and ENJOY your fancily prepared meal!
There is no bigger shame than letting a well prepared meal be worried into bits by you.
If you follow these tips, you’ve taken all the steps you can to ensure you get what you need at the restaurant of your choice. What could be better than that?! The worst thing that can happen after that is that you eat something absolutely delicious that you know your body can handle.
And even if you happen to eat something you just can’t resist, make sure you ENJOY it to the very last bit (and hope for the best it won’t come biting you in the butt the next day). Just make sure it’s worth it. And remember: life can’t be too rigid, or you’ll go crazy. You have to live a little, too. It’s important for your mental well being.
I’d love to hear from you: how do you do when you go to a restaurant? Please share in the comments below if you have a tip that should be added to this list!
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