The real catch 22 about dining at restaurants is that a restaurant is often exactly where you dine before a big night out, like before hitting a club for a friend’s birthday or before going dancing, and a restaurant is the last place that will leave you feeling well enough to do any of those things. I, personally, always unbutton my pants at the end of my meal at a restaurant. Maybe it’s just the fact that I have all these different foods to try at my fingertips, that I don’t get at home, and that I don’t even have to cook. Maybe it’s the fact that everyone else around me is overdoing it that makes me feel like it’s okay to overdo it myself (one of the reasons it’s best to eat alone). Whatever it is, I left restaurants feeling so bloated, so many times, that I had to create some rules for myself. Here are hacks to leave restaurants less bloated.
Have a bar before sitting down
I don’t arrive hungry. I always have a small, protein-packed snack immediately before walking in. I’ll eat a nut bar in the parked car, right in front of the restaurant. It just quiets those frenzied, hunger thoughts that tell me I need mozzarella sticks and spinach dip ASAP.
Don’t be the first to arrive
Arriving early doesn’t do me any favors. It just means I’m alone, bored, and have nothing to do but consume a whole breadbasket and two fruity cocktails until others arrive. So I touch base with the other diners, and don’t show up until there is at least one person for me to talk to.
But do be the first to order
Though I’m not the first to arrive, I try to be the first to order. I hate being the person to change her order and annoy the server, and that’s a good thing. Once I put in my healthy order, I’m locked into it. If someone who orders after me gets the bacon burger and that entices me, too bad—I already ordered.
Start with broth soup
If I can, I have a broth-based soup as a starter—even if there will be other appetizers. The saltiness is wonderfully satisfying, while the liquid fills up my tummy long enough to keep me full until my entrée arrives (so I don’t reach for more bread).
Have a nice glass of wine
For me, personally, sipping on a good glass of wine helps me refrain from all the bread, jalapeno poppers, spinach dip, and fries on the table. It’s essentially a lesser evil, until my entrée arrives.
Get shareable apps
If I’m in the mood for appetizers, I suggest shareable ones for the table. Since they are for everyone, I’m more conscious about not eating too many of them. That’s better than having an appetizer all to myself.
Get very involved food
Getting food that requires a lot of work to consume is helpful. That’s why I often go for seafood dishes with clams, muscles, and shrimp that hasn’t been de-tailed. Slowing down to prepare each bite helps me eat less.
Go for whole, pure veggies
Opt for the baked potato instead of the mashed potatoes, as the latter are mixed up with butter. Get steamed spinach instead of creamed spinach. Get steamed broccoli instead of cheesy broccoli. Keep veggie sides simple.
Stick to a budget
Sticking to a strict budget can prevent you from overdoing it. If you vow to only spend $20 at this meal, then you simply can’t have a second cocktail or dessert.
Or, go big
On the flip side, sometimes going big price-wise helps you eat less. The salmon and steak plates, for example, are more expensive than the pasta or pizza dishes, yet much lower in fat and calories.
Get a healthy dish with a fatty side
Rather than adding a side salad to your double cheeseburger for “health points,” get a healthy entrée, and add an unhealthy side. So, have the seared ahi tuna salad, with a side of fries. You get your fatty food fix, but in a smaller portion size.
Sit next to someone you love
You won’t eat too fast if you’re busy chatting with somebody. So sit next to someone whom you always enjoy talking to and get caught up in conversation with.
Consider the starters as entrees
Don’t overlook the starter section as a possible entrée section for you. The restaurant wants you to think the starters won’t fill you up, but often, they will. Consider, for example, having the steamed artichoke and shrimp cocktail as your whole meal.
Never get the all you can eat or drink
Just don’t do it. It isn’t worth it. The reality is that if you just had the amount of ribs, pancakes, or mimosas you wanted a-la-carte, you’d probably spend less money than you do on the all you can eat. You eat more to justify the price.
No cream sauce or dressing
When it comes to what goes on top of your…steak, seafood, pasta, salad…just don’t get the creamy stuff. Get tomato sauce. Get vinegar dressing.