How many times has this happened to you? You get in a good groove of taking your lunch to work every day and you’re starting to see some real progress on your weight loss and healthier eating goals when suddenly you get an email: It’s Sally-from-Accounting’s birthday or Marketing-guy-George’s last day at work, and everyone’s going out for lunch. Or maybe you’re called on to take an important client to a high-end restaurant.
How do you avoid derailing your diet while still fulfilling your social or business obligations when they involve lunch at high-calorie restaurants? We have some tips that can help.
- Perform your due diligence. Chances are good that the restaurant your coworkers have targeted for lunch has a menu available online. If it’s a chain restaurant, its website may even feature calorie counts and nutrition information. Look at the menu before you go and make some choices. When you get to the restaurant, don’t be swayed by the plate of loaded potato skins ordered for the table—stick to your original decision of what you want to order and eat just that.
- It will be easier to stick to that decision if you are not starving when lunchtime rolls around. Although it seems like it would be a good idea to save your calories for the restaurant meal, Sandra Smit, a Certified Health Educator, and wellness program designer suggests that having a snack in the late morning can take the edge off your appetite. A piece of fruit and a small handful of peanuts will give you the fiber, healthy fats, and protein that can keep you full enough to make good decisions.
- Consider splitting an entree or boxing up half to take back to work for tomorrow’s lunch. Most restaurant entrees are easily big enough and contain enough calories to satisfy two people. If someone else is working on the same goals as you, team up and split an entree. Or, have the waiter bring you a box with the food and box half of your meal up right away. That way, you’ll be sure to have enough to lunch on the following day. Both of these suggestions are great for saving your budget as well as your waistline.
- Ordering an appetizer instead of an entree can be a good strategy as well, but choose wisely. The aforementioned loaded potato skins are not the appetizer to choose if you have health or weight-loss goals.
- Don’t drink your calories. “Order unsweetened iced tea, or better yet, water with lunch.”
- Try to relax. If you have been establishing a good habit of bringing lunch, one day of eating out with coworkers is not going to blow your diet too badly. And enjoying a convivial outing can energize your afternoon and create a stronger working rapport with coworkers. Consider it a test: When you are establishing any new habit, the important thing is to accept that slips are temporary and get back on track as soon as possible.
Miriam Wolf is the editor of The FruitGuys Magazine newsletter.