Order Good Food Without Looking Like a Dieting Pansy

Travelling or spending ridiculously long hours at the office? Chances are you’re not getting as many home-cooked meals as you’d like.  It’s tough constantly ordering off menus when you’re trying to stay in shape and keep from going crazy bananas.  Did you know that willpower drains your energy?  Let’s find a way to eat well without relying on self-control — you need that energy to get your work done.

Here’s one of my favorite strategies for making healthy choices from a menu without looking like a “small-salad-with-dressing-on-the-side” dieting pansy:

Step 1:  Focus on adding in.  Meaning, instead of worrying about taking away, as in “I shouldn’t eat that”, focus on what nutrient-dense foods you can add in.

The best thing to add in?  Greens.  Not only are they very cleansing, but they also provide you with oxygen which gives you energy and lightens your mood.   So when you eat greens they give you a nice boost and yank you right out of your cranky pants.  Scour that menu and find the greeniest green that ever greened.

Step 2:  Order whatever you want. Yes, really.  Just find the most delicious thing on the menu that you’re really craving and order it, dammit.

Step 3:  Eat the good stuff first. Now that you have your lovely leafy greens and your other dish in front of you, eat the greens FIRST.  Then, you can go on to enjoy your naughty dish. One rule:  you better enjoy it.  Pay full attention and savor every bite.

Here’s what happens:  because of the high water and fiber content of your greens, you fill up with good stuff. When you get to dish #2, you eat only what you can fit in without feeling cheated.  Plus you won’t feel like your pants are about to burst.

This, my friends, is the art of crowding out.

Don’t worry about eliminating, just crowd out.  For example, is the office ordering pizza?  Ask for a side of sauteed spinach or broccoli rabe.  Eat the greens first, then pick a slice of pizza.  You’ll be satisfied with less pizza but not feel deprived.  Thank you, greens!

You can do this with just about any menu.  Getting Chinese takeout?  You can usually find steamed broccoli on the menu.  Japanese or sushi?  Steamed vegetables or seaweed salad.  Mexican?  Ask for them to double up on the vegetables in your burrito.

Get the picture?  Leave a comment and let me know how you might use this strategy to approach a menu.

This post is adapted from my article in this month’s Massachusetts Society of CPA’s “Sum News” for staying healthy and happy during tax season.

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12 Responses to Order Good Food Without Looking Like a Dieting Pansy

  1. I LOVE the concept of crowding out. I read about this somewhere once before. By having a green smoothie in the mornings and making sure to eat a salad at least once I day, I’ve noticed that I’ve crowded out my crappy cravings and now I crave more salad! GREAT post! xo

  2. Love this ninja move!

    I’ve been tring this at home with salad before main course. I just need to remember to serve my main dish after I’ve easten the salad because otherwise I still feel compelled to finish my plate, reagrdless of how full I’m feeling…and tight my belt is.

    You have a great way of writing Heaher and making this healthy stuff accessible and fun. Favoutite line “find the greeniest green that ever greened.”

    • Glad you’ve been practicing this ninja move! I know what you mean about feeling compelled to finish everything on your plate no matter how full you are – try serving the main dish on a salad or dessert plate to trick yourself!

  3. OK Heather, I’m going to try that on my next trip to a restaurant. I’m especially excited about being able to order whatever I want, I will feel so excited about that!
    Thanks for the great advice.

  4. Thanks for the tips. The idea of “crowding out” will help me change my mindset when dining out. A positive mindset is always more effective for me than an exclusive stance. Thanks.

    • Totally agree Gene! Dining out should be a pleasurable experience – no use in thinking negatively or feeling guilty.

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