Eating Out Mindfully

April 7, 2009

One of the biggest challenges many people face with their eating habits today is dining out. With work, family, and keeping up with daily chores and activities, many people don’t have enough time in the day to prepare foods at home and therefore resort to eating out. While dining out can be a relaxing, enjoyable experience, if you’re not paying attention, it could have detrimental effects on your body. But, keep these tips in mind when getting ready to go out for your next meal and you can maintain a healthy heart and waist.

menu1. Whenever possible, plan ahead. Many restaurants display their menu online. If you know in advance where you’ll be eating, check out the menu and make your selection before going. This way you’re choosing when your not distracted or overly hungry and will likely make a healthier choice.

2. Study the menu carefully. Be careful choosing items with terms, such as “buttery, sautéed, crispy, fried, cream or cheese sauce, hollandaise, or marinated in oil.” Instead choose foods indicating low fat, such as “steamed, poached, grilled, roasted, boiled, or barbequed.”

3. Ask questions. If you’re unsure about how something is prepared…Ask! Oftentimes, meals appear to be healthy, but, may be saturated in butter or oil.

4. Make special requests. Many times I hear from clients that they “don’t want to be THAT person”, but, most of the time restaurants don’t mind and will honor your requests because they want to please their customers…perhaps limit it to one or two requests if you don’t want to appear too demanding.

5. Stay relaxed & eat slowly. Whether you’re out to eat or at home, eating in a relaxed environment and relaxed-eatingeating slowly will likely prevent you from overeating. Try enjoying the atmosphere or conversation with others instead of rushing to get your food down.

6. Stop eating when full. When you are relaxed and eat slowly, it’s easier to listen to your body to know when your full. Those people who eat until they’re comfortably full, tend to manage their weight better than those who overeat.

7. Save some for later! Restaurants are known to serve large portions. When you stop eating when you’re full, you’ll most likely have leftovers to take home for another meal. If you have a hard time with this, try asking for ½ your order to be put in the “doggie bag” before it’s served.

stressedoutStress is everywhere….my client just lost three family members, my accountant is afraid he won’t get the taxes done on time, my friend just lost her job, and I’m planning a wedding! It seems like almost everyone is under some kind of stress. Many people manage their stress with food. After all, food can provide pleasure; soothe pressure and distress; and fill a void. But, overtime, overeating can cause weight gain, which is often associated with other conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Here are some tips to controlling stress-related eating:

1. Become aware of the behavior. Without being aware, you can’t change..right? To do this, start by being more mindful when you eat. Ask yourself…”Am I hungry?” or think about why you’re eating.

2. If you find yourself grabbing for food when you’re not hungry, try to wait 15 – 30 minutes to eat and see if that changes your desire for food.

eating-on-the-run3. Try eating only when seated and not on the run, in the car, while working, or any other activity. This will help to keep you more focused on eating.

4. Keep a food record. Look for trends in your eating. This will not only help you to remember what you ate, but also it will help you to think before you eat. Plus, you may realize if you are overeating.

5. Eat regularly and consistently. The more routine your eating pattern is, the less unintentional or erratic eating will take place. Also, eating regularly, keeps your energy and blood glucose levels steady, which can help with managing stress.

6. Keep low calorie, healthful foods available; get rid of tempting foods. If your tendency is to put something in your mouthstress when you’re stressed, try eating cut up vegetables or fruits to occupy your mouth without affecting your waist.

7. Exercise. Try to take a walk, ride your bike, or practice yoga INSTEAD of eating to cope with stress. Even if it is only 5 minutes…that amount of time will give you a chance to pause and think instead of reacting to a stressful situation. Also, a regular exercise routine can keep stress levels down.

8. Don’t feel guilty if you DO overeat. This will most likely lead to more stressful eating and then the cycle begins again….

9. If nothing else works, talk to someone…a family member, friend, psychologist, or nutritionist.