Ever been out for dinner while trying to stick to your diet? It kind of stinks.
You’re eyeing the menu, thinking that a salad doesn’t look so filling, the entrees look like calorie bombs, and the wine list? Forget it. The choices can get so overwhelming that you might end up picking something completely off your diet, or worse, something so small and unsatisfying that you end up resenting the meal entirely.
Sound familiar? Suffer no more. There are very simple, effective strategies you can use to help counter the effects of a restaurant meal and curb overeating before you even leave for dinner.
First of all, make sure to stay hydrated all day before the big meal out – drink at least 80 ounces of water before you head out, and another 20-30 while eating. Staying full of water is a great way to ensure that you’re not mistaking thirst for hunger, as well as a preventive measure against the sodium levels that restaurant meals inevitably raise.
Speaking of sodium, your second best guard against a puffy face the day after a big meal out is drinking a (single!) glass of red wine. Red wine can actually help sodium process more quickly through the body and reduce its lasting effects on swelling and bloating after a large meal.
A final strategy while at the restaurant is to start the meal with a vegetable-heavy salad (skip the dressing in favor of olive oil and lemon juice). Not only will the roughage begin to fill you up, but the salad itself ensures that you are getting at least 3 of your 7-9 daily produce servings recommended for a healthy diet.
Fell off the wagon and ate too much? Let’s talk damage control.
The day after a big meal, consider that you’ve (likely) “carbo-loaded” a bit – which means your body is primed with fuel for endurance exercise like running, cycling, or rowing. Add 10-20 minutes onto your regular cardio program to burn a few extra calories and use up the excess glycogen stores you built up the day prior, then finish by drinking an extra bottle of water (16-24 ounces) to continue flushing toxins, sodium, and sugars from the body.
Finally, don’t forget that one meal is just that – ONE of approximately 21 meals you’ll be having in a given week – so if you’ve splurged, spend some time meal planning for the next few days to make sure you stay on track with your diet. The law of averages means your single splurge will become less significant when followed by several days of healthier, cleaner eating.
Amanda Ebnerr, M.A, M.Ed.
Certified Personal Trainer and Sports Nutritionist