What are restaurants paid to do? Serious question. I think they’re paid to create a pleasurable experience, both through the environment they create physically and through the food they serve. Their goal is to make you enjoy the food, and to come back for more. And while there are some restaurants out there that go above and beyond to have your health in mind (the California gem Café Gratitude comes to mind!), most do not.
Not that they’re trying to undermine your health, of course, but their primary focus is not your health. Their primary focus is getting you to enjoy the food, which means they’ll likely use as much sugar, salt, and unhealthy types of fat (from low-quality oils) as it takes to make the food palatable. If you want to go down a rabbit hole, I recommend the books “Salt, Sugar, Fat” and “Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?”. But I won’t take you down that rabbit hole here. Let’s just agree, for now, that restaurants’ main goal is to get you to enjoy the food, meaning that it’s your responsibility to take care of your health.
So what are you to do if you regularly eat at restaurants or order in from restaurants, and are still concerned about your health? Today, I’ll share some of my favorite healthy restaurant tips, in the forms of the BDD Rule and the MVP Rule. And if you want help applying them, download my Lyons’ Share Approved Restaurant Guide, which review the healthiest orders from 25 popular restaurants, here!
The BDD Rule
The BDD Rule is probably my favorite healthy restaurant tip, because it’s designed to help you make healthy decisions without feeling deprived. We’re simply aiming to think about all those things that “add up” in restaurants, prioritizing the one(s) that are important to us, and leaving behind the rest.
I don’t know about you, but when I cook at home, I don’t have a bread basket, an appetizer, a pasta course, something fried, a drink, and dessert. Yet at restaurants, this is all too common, and it all adds up quickly, often making us feel bloated, fatigued, heavy, and on a blood sugar roller coaster when we’re done with our meal.
The things that we need to look out for can be summarized by “BDD:”
- B for Bread: includes the bread basket, bread on a sandwich, anything breaded, or anything ground into a flour and baked (like bread, pasta, muffins, pastries). This is not the same thing as “carbs” like rice, potatoes, and vegetables – none of those count as “B”!
- D for Drink: includes alcoholic beverages, soda, juice, and anything sweetened (e.g. sweet coffee drink)
- D for Dessert: includes anything sweetened, like cookies, cakes, ice cream, pastries, etc. Does not include berries or other fruit desserts!
So, do you have to eliminate all of those? No! Here’s what I suggest instead:
- On a normal eating occasion, choose one. Really hankering for a glass of wine tonight? Great! Enjoy it! But it’s a great night to skip the bread basket and choose berries instead of cake for dessert. Or, you want the sandwich instead of the salad? Go for it! But let’s stick with water and pass on dessert.
- On a special occasion, choose two. A special date night out, or a friend’s birthday? OK, celebrate with two choices! Stay aware, though, and choose the ones that are important to you!
- On a super special occasion, like your birthday or a once-a-year holiday, go for all three! Now isn’t the time to stress.
The MVP Rule
A second rule that I often share with clients looking to go the extra mile is the MVP Rule. It’s another healthy restaurant tip that I love to apply. If you’re willing to do both, the one-two punch of the BDD Rule and MVP Rule will ensure that you’re choosing something that makes you feel your best, even at restaurants!
- M for Macronutrients: if you already know about macronutrient balance, then this one is simple. Aim to include a source of protein, healthy fat, and carbohydrate (ideally from vegetables!) at each meal.
- V for Veggies: always my favorite topic! I aim to include a vegetable at every meal, but they deserve extra focus at restaurants or when ordering in, since many restaurant meals don’t include them. I have only found one restaurant at which I couldn’t find a vegetable (it was the Whole Hog Café in Bentonville, AR, but they’ve since added a side salad and cole slaw … go Whole Hog!). Sometimes, you have to get creative, like asking the Mexican restaurant for an extra side of fajita veggies or asking the burger joint to make you a side salad with their lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles, but just do your best!
- P is for Portions: restaurant portions can be pretty out of whack! At some places, like the Cheesecake Factory, it seems like the plate they serve could feed 4 people! At other places, particularly some fancier restaurants, I feel like I could devour the entire plate in a bite. So how do we decide? Trust your gut on this one. I like to eyeball the meal before starting to eat, and determine what I think an appropriate portion would be (e.g. ¾ of the plate). Once I finish that portion, I’ll pause to reassess my hunger. Most of the time, if I’m honest, I’m just fine! I’ll ask for the rest to be boxed up for home.
Want more? In my, I walk you through every step of what it takes to be a well-rounded healthy person. The information, motivation, and accountability in this program is simply unmatched! You’ll learn everything from inflammation to emotional eating, from supplements to sleep quality, from macronutrient balance to meal planning – I’ll walk you through my proven system to teach you how to implement it. If you’re curious, to discuss!