Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Restaurant dining 101

As you all know, I eat out A LOT.  My job requires me to dine out frequently with clients.  On average, I'd say I eat out 3 meals a week with clients.  Sometimes more, sometimes less.  And I always eat where they ask to go.  After all, the dining experience is about them, not me.  I have been following the metabolic diet I'm on for almost 9 months.  It will be nine months the 18th of June.  Because I have to eat out so much, I learned early on how to get over the hurdles that can be very difficult for any dieter.

Since I can't plan ahead because I don't necessarily know where I'm going, I have to be prepared to ask for what I want.  Never be afraid to ask for something not on the menu.  Unless it is a fast-food chain (which I try to avoid as much as possible, but if I can't I just order bottled water or coffee), there's really no reason that a restaurant shouldn't be able to accommodate your dietary needs.  I have gone to a sit down pizzeria near my work with a client and saw virtually nothing I could eat on the menu.  Everything was pizza or pasta.  I saw the toppings they put on the pizza which included chicken, eggplant, mushrooms, peppers, zucchini...etc.  I asked the waiter if I could get a grilled chicken breast with a side of sauteed veggies and they were more than happy to accommodate me.  You just have to ask.  I ate with my client, and still stayed on plan!

One place I frequent regularly is the Mandarin.  That is a Chinese buffet chain in Southern Ontario.  Lots of really bad, high carb, deep fried food.  But my clients LOVE it.  The first time I went when I started my diet plan, I asked what kind of oil they use to cook with.  It's canola...an oil I am allowed to use in my own day-to-day cooking.  Although I can stay on plan when I go there, it is VERY high in sodium so I need to drink a ton of water during and after my meal.  There are lots of food choices for me and I always leave feeling quite full.  If you're following Phase 2 of the diet, there are even more options.  I tend to follow Phase 1 when I eat out with clients even if I do eat Phase 2 regularly.  It makes me feel better about eating out and not preparing the food on my own.
My phase 1 friendly starter at the Mandarin.
Shrimp, cucumber, mushrooms, hard boiled eggs.
The lemon is for my water.

My main includes, grilled chicken, green beans, sauteed mushrooms, garlic broccoli
and flank steak from the carvery.  I usually go back for some seconds of the meat.
Today I had dinner with a client at the Pickle Barrel.  There are a few good menu options there for Phase 1 and 2 of the diet.  I ordered the Lemon-Herb Grilled Chicken Shish-Kebab.  It is described in the menu as Grilled, marinated chicken kebabs served with a grilled vegetable medley, rice, garlic bread, tzaziki sauce and Greek salad.

First I asked what the chicken was marinated in and was told that it was a lemon/olive oil/garlic/herb marinade. Something I could eat.  The veggies were also grilled with olive oil and herbs.  I asked them to hold the rice, tzaziki and garlic bread and changed the Greek salad to mixed greens with olive oil and vinegar.  This is what my final meal looked like, minus the salad which they brought earlier.
This was a lot of food.  The only veggies I couldn't eat to stick to Phase 1 were the  red peppers
and red onion.  There were LOTS of mushrooms, zucchini and eggplant under the HUGE amount of
chicken they served.  I actually left food on my plate because there was so much!
Learning to eat out is an important skill to master.  A lifestyle change is not just for now, it's forever.  If I can plan ahead for eating out, I do.  I'll go on-line to look at menus, call ahead and ask if they can accommodate my dietary needs etc.  If I had serious food allergies I would do the exact same thing.  I have to think of myself as being allergic to carbs and sugar.  Therefore I need to plan.  I can't be lazy about my health.  If I'm going to a party or social gathering where I know there will be a lot of finger foods, I eat before going. That way, if there's nothing I can eat, I won't be tempted to eat foods I shouldn't.

It is tricks like this that have kept me on plan over the past 8 1/2 months.  I don't exclude myself from social gatherings because of food, I plan for them.  I have to live, and I have to eat like this for the rest of my life.  Food is just fuel for my body and mind.  It is no longer a recreational activity for me.  We are all capable of making good choices.  Ask yourself what is more important.  Good health or a good binge.  The health brings longevity, the binge brings nausea and guilt.  I choose health!

The photo on the left was taken in Williamsburg, Virginia in July 2011, the photo on the right was taken on this past Sunday after the Weight Watchers Walk-it 5K.