Do you agree that you always took dining out as a given until we all had to go into a lockdown? I know I did! It doesn’t matter what country or culture or diet you follow eating out is a big part of our lifestyle.
Dining out is enjoyable but gets tricky if you have just changed your diet. Maybe you decided to go plant-based full-on, cut out sugar or carbohydrates, and you are not sure how you to navigate your next social outing.
I’m glad you asked because, in today’s article, I am going to show you how to navigate dining out so you still eat healthy and follow through on your new diet changes.
But before we start, get your copy of my e-book The wholehearted diet. Discover the power of plant-based eating, stress less, and have more energy.
The Importance of Eating Healthily
First of all, congratulations on starting a new diet. Committing to going plant-based is a big step in improving your health. As you are starting there are many nuances to go through. You may still be finding your balance and figuring out what to eat.
This is normal not only when you start a new diet but when you make any changes to what you eat.
Trust me, you can still eat healthy and follow through on your new diet even if you eat out. It may
take a little bit more preparation and practice, but it is not as hard as you may think.
Dining out may even be a good practice to see if your new way of eating has become a habit and comes naturally or not.
I remember when I did I quit sugar program, I did not dine out for the whole duration of the program.
Why? Because it was easier that way. I committed, and I didn’t want to break it.
It is important to follow through on your diet even when dining out. You don’t want to lose the progress you made and go back to the old way of eating. It took a lot of courage, self-discipline, and perseverance to come so far, so don’t throw it away.
If you have doubts or want to ‘give up’ just this once, ask yourself if it is worth it.
Will eating something that doesn’t serve you be worth it? What would happen if you do? What is the cost?
There may be situations when ‘just this one time’ you break a rule, but what would stop you from breaking it again?
Staying your course is still a better option. So, here are five ways to navigate eating out so you still follow through on your plans.
#1 Research and Plan Ahead
Preparation is the key to succeeding with almost anything. So, prepare yourself before you leave the door. Nowadays you can google anything, so do a quick research about the restaurant you plan to dine in.
I have been following a healthy plant-based diet for a long time now, so all my friends leave the restaurant choice to me.
I always start looking for vegan or vegetarian restaurants because this is easier. I know they will
definitely have something I can eat. The first challenge you may run into is that there may not be many options in your local area.
I know this is changing drastically, but there are still many locations where your choice may be limited. Then you search for a restaurant that provides vegan options. It is always a good sign if their website or social media mentions that they cater to different diets.
My second step in the research process is to look at their menu. Many restaurants indicate which dishes are vegan or vegetarian and which dishes may be altered to accommodate this.
This is another good sign. It means the restaurant will cater to your specific dietary requirements. I love those restaurants because I rarely order what’s on the menu.
#2 Navigating the Menu
The food on the menu is exactly like the food in a supermarket. Not every item is there to enhance your health. You need to use your judgement in what is healthy and what is not.
The food prepared at the restaurant will be different from how you cook at home, but the rule is still the same. The healthiest options are raw options. So, the less processing and cooking involved, the better the chances the food you order will be on the healthier side.
Go for vegetables, whole grains, and fruit for dessert.
When you scan the menu think about how the dish is prepared. Is it fried, baked, boiled, or stir-fried? It matters because you want to omit any fried, especially deep-fried foods and heavily processed foods.
Ask yourself how much processing needs to happen for the dish to be finished. You are better off ordering a side of potatoes than fries.
For any plant-based options make sure you see a symbol next to it. So the dish doesn’t contain any meat or meat-related products. If you are unsure always ask!
#3 Customize Your Order
I am most likely a nightmare for any chef, but I love to customize my orders. I don’t do it rudely or disrespectfully. I know what I want to put into my body, and I don’t feel I need to compromise because something unhealthy was put on the menu.
I often ask for modifications to the meal even if it is already vegan. I may not want to eat vegan cheese or sour cream, or other plant-based condiments, that I know would most likely be made with sugar.
It is perfectly okay to ask to have your sauces, dressings, or other add-ons on the side.
Many places are happy to make substitutions and swap meat or meat-related products for plant-based protein.
However, when asking for any substitutions ensure that you get something else in the place of the ingredient you want to omit. It often happens that no replacement is offered unless I ask for it.
Your meal needs to include complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats.
The restaurants I love the most are those where I can make my meal from scratch. Not many places would do it, but it is always worth asking.
#4 Navigate Social Situations
The hardest part of making changes to your diet is the lack of support from your environment. If you are dining out not everyone will share your views on eating healthy or agreeing with your food choices.
This is something you need to work on before you even go out. Don’t worry, it will get easier with time. Be prepared that there may be some tricky social situations, especially when you are starting.
I would always suggest going back to your why. Why are you doing it? Why have you decided to eat healthy? What was behind you swapping to a plant-based diet? Those are the reasons why you decided to do it.
Those are your reasons, not somebody else’s. You don’t need to explain or defend your choices.
You can tell your friends and family that from now on, there are certain products you don’t eat anymore. And you are happy to explain why if they are willing to listen. Otherwise, you stay strong in the commitment you made to yourself.
#5 Just Ask
Don’t be afraid to ask for ingredient clarification or how the dish is prepared. Remember, you have the right to know what you eat. If something seems unfamiliar, ask!
I know you may feel uncomfortable or like you are making a fuss, but trust me. The restaurant wants you to have a great experience and they want you to recommend them to your friends!
They are happy to accommodate your dietary requirements so you can enjoy your meal.
How to Eat Out When You Are Plant-Based
Eating out healthy is easier than you think. You don’t need to stop socializing only because you started following a plant-based diet, quit sugar, or stopped drinking alcohol. You can still embrace a healthy and plant-based lifestyle while enjoying dining out!
Always research and plan. This way you know what is on the menu, and you have a better understanding of the healthy options. It is perfectly okay to customize your order and ask for substitutions.
Go back to your why. Your health is worth it.
Ready to improve your eating habits? Get your copy of my e-book The Wholehearted Diet. Discover the power of plant-based eating, stress less, and have more energy.