The “Don’t Deprive Yourself (or Disgrace Yourself)” Dining Out Game Plan

Let’s say you go out to a good restaurant with a group of friends and you want to be “good”.

You’re trying to shape up and need to be energized for your next big project, so you don’t want food to screw that up.

But you also don’t want to pass up any tasty treats.

Let’s say this restaurant is KNOWN for it’s lobster mac & cheese…

What do you do?

A) Go for the rich bowl of lobster mac & cheese and vow to do better next time


B) Order salad with dressing on the side (BORING!!!) and stare longingly at your friends’ plates (and take a few guilty bites)?

Whichever game-plan you choose, they both suck.

If you choose A, you’ll feel bloated, guilty, tired, cranky, a little sweaty…

If you choose B, you’ll feel deprived and probably binge on snacky cakes later in the day to make up for it.

Here’s a better (and way more fun) strategy that’s been working for me for the past few years:

The “Don’t Deprive Yourself (or Disgrace Yourself)” Dining Out Game Plan

Step 1. Go to restaurant. Read menu, find what you reeeeeally want. Not what your inner calorie-counting dietician thinks you should have.
Step 2. Next, find the healthiest damn thing on the menu, preferably leafy greens like a broccoli side dish or a big green salad (Caesar salad doesn’t count).
Step 3. Order both.
Step 4. When your food arrives, eat the greens first. ALL of them, not just a few bites.
Step 5. When your greens are done, you can then move on to the naughty dish.

You know what happens? You fill up on these light, nutritious greens so by the time you get to the naughty dish you only have room for some of it.

It has nothing to do with willpower, you just flat out don’t have enough room to eat it all!

What people normally do is horse down the heavy, rich, “naughty” food. Then, they feel guily and eat a few pieces of their veggie side dish to make up for it.

But it’s too late, you’re already full and you’re already bloated.

THIS way, however, you fill up on the light food without having to deprive yourself. You walk away feeling satisfied, not stuffed.

The Dish That Made Us Forget About Cheese and Pasta

That is exactly what Peter and I did when we went to this tasty Italian place with a couple of friends last summer. They had rice balls, eggplant parmigiana, homemade pasta – we wanted to try it all.

So we used the DDY Game Plan, followed Step 2 and ordered a simple sauteed spinach side dish…and then another…and another…

The spinach dish was so good we couldn’t get enough, so we barely noticed cheesy, deep-fried rice balls and left the place feeling awesome, not sluggish.

It’s a nice reminder that if you use the freshest ingredients, you don’t have to do much with food to make it taste fantastic.

RECIPE:  Sauteed Spinach with Garlic and Raisins

1/4 cup olive oil
2-5 garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups spinach or baby spinach, rinsed
1/4 cup golden raisins
sea salt


  1. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat.
  2. Add the garlic and saute until it’s golden brown.
  3. Slowly add in the spinach, let it wilt and keep adding until it’s all in.
  4. Sprinkle very lightly with sea salt.
  5. Gently stir to let spinach wilt down more and meld with flavors, then toss in the raisins.
  6. Stir for a few minutes so the raisins get juicy and plump.  Take off heat and enjoy!


Do you have a dish you recently LOVED at a restaurant that you wish you could re-create?  Tell me about it in the comments below!


  • jean says:

    Ooh, love the addition of golden raisins…Must. Try.

  • Jemma says:

    YUM, I can’t wait to try this spinach…

    This is in bit of a different direction, but the juicy pork buns at M Shanghai in Brooklyn are out-of-control amazing. Can you do xiao long bao, Heather? Pretty please on a soup dumpling? I would be yours for life.

  • Liz says:

    OMG,I am spinach fanatic. I am totally making this. Be prepared to be photo bombed! thanks Heather.

  • danielle says:

    LOVE this.. had it in italy for the first time and it was amazing.. also works well with swiss chard.. which I just cut up..hmmm i think i’ll go make some..
    ; )

  • Tina says:

    I’ll definitely try to make this. I’m a sucker for anything that has raisins!

  • Jonathan says:

    I would love to know how to make “Crab Maryland” as served in the Washington DC Metropolitan Club – the version with the sherry of course !!

  • Stacey says:

    I had this really yummy lettuce wraps at PF Changs every time I go. THen I went to California Pizza and they had some awesome ones there as well. How do they make them so gooooood!
    I’d love your version of them.

    thanks Heather!

  • Laura Yamin says:

    I love the idea to really commit to eating greens/veggies before the more decadent item on the menu. I have found it makes a world of a difference and at the right order as you mentioned.

    Thanks for the suggestion to add raisins into the spinach dish this is something that I will be trying out this evening in my meal.

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