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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