Eating at restaurants is a topic near and dear to my heart: in a normal week, I eat 12 meals per week out of the house due to traveling Monday through Thursday for work … and that’s without any social outings or date nights on the weekends (note: this post was written in 2013, before I left my job to follow my dreams!). I have several strategies to help you eat healthily while traveling, but today, I want to share one of my most simple and effective tricks with you.
Before the tip, a quick word on how different restaurants can be from your kitchen, nutritionally speaking. Aside from using extra fat, sugar, and salt to make food taste more appealing, restaurants also increase portion sizes so you end up eating more than you would at home. Some articles cite that restaurant portions contain up to 50% more calories, fat, and sodium than an equivalent home-cooked meal. Another study showed that teenagers ate, on average, 309 more calories during days that they ate at fast-food restaurants (and 267 more calories during days that they ate at full-service restaurants). Plus, when you’re at home, you likely don’t have the bread basket, the appetizer course, the dessert menu, and the full bar to steer you away from healthy eating.
One simple tip I use to help me stay healthy even when dining out is what I call the “BDD rule.”
On normal dinners out, I allow myself to choose one option between Bread, Drink (alcoholic or sweetened), and Dessert. On special occasions, I choose two. And on those very special, once-in-a-lifetime events (like my honeymoon, a restaurant I’ve been dying to try, or maybe my sister-in-law’s wedding tonight!), I choose all three. Framing it so that I get to choose one (or two, or three) of the options (rather than I have to limit myself) makes me feel more free and in control of my choices, and doesn’t seem so oppressive. Most of the time, the bread basket just doesn’t look that great to me, and it’s not hard to pass up, but if I didn’t have the BDD rule in mind, I might mindlessly chomp on a few pieces of bread to pass the time until my meal came. Using the BDD rule is one of the many tricks I use to help keep my restaurant meals from piling on the unnecessary calories and ensure that I leave feeling energized and satisfied, rather than weighed down and regretful.
So tell me in the comments… do you usually choose between bread, drinks, and dessert? Would you like to hear more about how to eat healthily in restaurants?