Tackling Takeout While Trying to Make Better Lifestyle Choices
It seems for years we’ve had people shouting at us to “eat this,” but “definitely not that.” While in theory it’s a terrific mantra, sometimes you’re faced with options that simply don’t fit into any wellness program on the planet. Many of us were faced with this dilemma during lock-down, and the subsequent months (year!) of take-out dinners, Styrofoam boxes, and post-fast-food regret. “But it’s the only option we had.” We hear you. And we all partook in said Styrofoam party.
But with the dawning of these new days, and more dining options opening up, we are again confronted with a new sort of dilemma. Making better choices — with more choices available — in what we bring home for dinner.
There’s always been a tug of war with the fast, inexpensive option of drive-throughs. And in those sedentary days and contactless year, the drive-through was a very helpful option for many. But now, taking less stock of where we were and, instead, where we want to go, our dietary choices are all the more important.
We all have favorite places. Relying on the comfort and safety of our old standards is familiar and easy. Shaking up the choices we used to make can not only broaden our culinary horizons but can force us to start to develop tastes for some of the hidden gems on a menu we may not have entertained before.
Fork and Knife
We won’t go through all the culinary options out there, but a really good rule of thumb is to pick a small protein and then dress up the plate with some tasty options. Order something that requires a fork and a knife. Sandwiches, burritos, pizza slices and chicken nuggets — if you’re eating it out of a wrapper or with your fingers, it’s probably not the best choice on the menu. Sure, there are exceptions (did you know you’re supposed to eat asparagus with your fingers?) but in general this rule is solid. The need for a fork and knife implies that you’re cutting up a piece of protein and stabbing at a salad or some veggies on the side. You can’t eat soup with your fingers (warning: please do not try).
Water, Water, Water
Tip number two is hydration in the form of water. There is a definite pressure to order a cool drink when a server first comes to the table. Water? How boring. And sometimes, your take-out meal comes with a drink. Who doesn’t like a little tingle or a little sugar to get the party started? All you’re doing though, is setting yourself up to refill that glass and wash yourself away in a lot of unnecessary calories or sugar. If there’s big boy/girl juice in there, you’ve got a sure-fire way to lower your inhibitions and eat your way through the menu. As with high calorie, high fat food options, alcoholic beverages must also be limited.
Diet drinks are disguised as reasonable, no-guilt options, but over the years, we have come to understand they not only trigger intense cravings for sweets, but the bloating, and debated effects of artificial sweeteners can’t be denied. Grab that water, throw in some citrus, or fruit, or start diluting favorite drinks like iced tea until your pallet adjusts to the reduced sweetness.
Not Everything Bad Is Bad
Tip number three. If we’re making reasonable and sensible choices for most of the week, eating out can be a very satisfying adventure that shouldn’t end in self-blame, disgust, or discomfort. Moderation is an easy word to throw around, and once faced with a mountain of cheesy fries, or a slab of wings, caution is easily thrown to the wind. If you order an indulgence, have others with you that will partake. You can divide it onto individual plates to accompany the rest of a great meal. It’s the equivalent of the one dessert with six spoons trick to lower your caloric intake. Even for a celebratory evening, where your plan is to indulge, dividing these triggering foods and not denying yourself a taste can go a long way toward enjoying your evening without feeling deprived.
I Deserve, Therefore I Consume
Tip number four. “But I deserve it.” This is a post-Covid mantra many of us have on auto-repeat. “Things were tough, things are tough; and I deserve it.” But you also deserve good health, feeling great, and being proud that you can still have fun while not punishing yourself under the guise of rewarding yourself. So this one’s about mindset. You sure do deserve whatever you want. We may not even know you, and we know you deserve it. But let’s also think about how we feel when we go off the rails. The reward doesn’t seem so sweet after all.
So tell yourself I do deserve it, but I also deserve to be my best. You’d be surprised just how in control you are when you give yourself that respect and acknowledgement.