Are you the type of person to eat salads at home, but orders the hamburger, fries, and milkshake when dining out?

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  • My friends are here! Just this once.

  • When else will I come back here? Just this once.

  • I've been eating so well this week. Just this once.

  • I'm on vacation! Just this once.

Sound familiar? Like many of us, you've probably used these excuses more than once in your life. While one candy bar won't cause your body harm, the consistent lack of fruit, vegetables, or natural proteins will leave your body less able to defend itself from disease or other illness.

The most important part of eating well is to eat well consistently, even when we eat out.

Say Goodbye To Just This Once

What if I told you that you could say goodbye to "just this once," dine out with your friends, and still maintain a consistently healthy diet? Would you believe me? Lucky for you (and all of us!), there's a solution, and it doesn't require any fad diets or extra money.

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There are three strategies to counter any version of "just this once" when it comes to food:

  1. Understand the concept of calorie density

  2. Plan ahead

  3. Keep a food log

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Understand Food Density

Food density is the measure of the calorie content of food relative to its weight or volume,

  • Food that is low in food density is lower in calories and contains more water and fiber to bulk it up.

  • Food that is high in food density packs more calories for a smaller amount of food.

To understand this, let's compare grapes and raisins. Grapes are filled with water while raisins are dried up. One cup of grapes is 104 calories. One cup of raisins is 434 calories. Can you guess which food and portion is low in food density and would fill you up? If you guessed grapes, you are correct!

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When dining out, select food items that are less calorie dense. An easy way to spot less calorie dense foods is to choose foods that contain a lot of water.

Quiz

Which of the following foods is the least calorie dense?

Planning Ahead

If you're invited to dine out, don't panic! Plan ahead and save yourself the stress of determining the best options in the moment. Here are some tips to plan ahead:

  • Look up the restaurant that you plan to visit. What kind of food does it serve?

  • Search if the restaurant posts its menu online. Do they also share their nutritional content?

  • If you want a burrito, don't fret. Could you plan to eat half of the burrito then and the other half tomorrow?

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Quiz

Randy and Ryan are planning to get dinner at a restaurant known for its delicious and large desserts. Randy wants to maintain a healthy diet, but still wants to enjoy dessert. What should Randy do?

Keep A Food Log

A food log is a diary for your tummy. We often eat a lot more than we would guess. Food logs are great tools to keep track of what we actually eat in a given day.

Free apps like MyFitnessPal or Food Diary offer easy ways for users to add or plan their food for the day. As a bonus, they'll also calculate the total amount of nutrients you'll be receiving that day and where you can improve.

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If you're a pen and paper type of person, writing down the quantity and type of food you eat already will help you make more mindful decisions about why you are eating.

Making Healthy Choices: A Recap

Healthier food choices involve:

  • Choosing foods low in calorie density such as soups, salads, or fruits.

  • Portioning your meal over several sittings.

  • Being mindful of what you are eating throughout the day.

Want to eat that dessert or order that hamburger? Do it! Don't restrict your eating. The key to success is to make consistent, mindful decisions when it comes to eating healthy. You got this!

Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

Summary

Dining out is meant to be a fun and special experience. With the right tools, you can have fun dining out while still maintaining a healthy diet.

When you find yourself saying "just this once," pause. Ask yourself:

  • What are some low calorie dense foods that I would enjoy eating?

  • What are ways that I can spilt up this food over different servings?

  • What other nutrients will I be taking in today?

Asking these questions will help you stay mindful and in control of your decisions about food. You'll even enjoy the food more! Say goodbye to "just this once" forever, and hello to healthy living!

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

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This Byte has been authored by

MM

Mandy Mekhail

Strengths-Based & Cultural Responsive Practitioner