Let’s be honest.
When you have dietary restrictions of any kind, dining out has the potential to suck.
It’s way too easy to forget what you aren’t supposed to be eating when you’re with a group full of people who are chowing down on sugary, fried deliciousness. Before you know it, you’ve ‘sampled’ a bit of what they have, then flagged down the waiter to order your own dish.
It tastes great in the moment of course but has the potential to cause some pretty nasty after-effects. As you probably know, us ladies with PCOS are prone to symptom flare-ups in general, but the food we eat heavily plays a part as well.
Great news: with a bit of preparation and willpower, it doesn’t have to be that way!
Before your next restaurant outing, jot down these tips to prepare you. They’ve been a big help to me no matter where I go.
NOTE: These are great tips because they apply to any dietary guideline — Keto, Paleo, whatever!
Check The Restaurant’s Nutrition Guide Online.
This is always, ALWAYS the first go-to. Most restaurants have printable PDF nutrition guides on their websites.
Print off the guide or view it in your browser and study. the. heck. out of it. If it’s a restaurant you frequent on a regular basis, you can circle dishes that fall into your dietary guidelines on a hard copy of the guide.
You’ll walk into the restaurant already knowing what you’re going to order, which is half the battle and will help you stick to your guns a little better than going in blind.
Be Mindful Of Portion Sizes.
Alright, so you’ve found meals that fit into your diet. Awesome!
But there’s still one aspect you’ve got to be aware of when dining out: portion sizes.
At a lot of chain restaurants, the portions are huge. A meal meant for one person can easily feed two (or even three!) people. Unfortunately, this also applies to meals that are otherwise considered ‘healthy’. I’ve chosen what were supposed to be lighter meals from restaurants to later find out that I’d gone over my caloric limit because the portion was way too big.
There’s no great way to judge your portion sizes besides eyeballing your plate. If it looks like too much for you to handle, either split it with a friend or eat half and take the remainder to-go.
Eat A Snack Before You Go.
This piggybacks on the last tip. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’ve been starving before I’ve gone out to eat. You know what I said about eyeballing your portions? Well, that goes right out of the window when you’re really hungry.
The best defense for this? Eat a small snack before you leave out. It doesn’t have to be anything major. Some nuts, string cheese, a piece of fruit… you get the idea. It’ll curb your appetite so you’ve not ravenous, but still hungry enough for a full meal.
Another no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how much some of us forget to do this at restaurants. When I’m drinking pop, wine or a cocktail, I’m prone to be way more lax with what I’m eating than if I have a big glass of water in front of me. It also suppresses my appetite and helps me feel pretty full as I’m eating my meal.
Plain or lemon water is also typically free at most restaurants. Bonus!
You Can’t Go Wrong With A Salad (Usually).
Nightmare scenario incoming:
You’ve just gone out to a restaurant with a group of people. You aren’t familiar with the menu. When you get there, you realize that most of the offerings aren’t acceptable for your dietary guidelines. What do you do?
I know this is cliche, but it’s true: you can’t go wrong with a salad.*
The most basic of side salads come with lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, olives and a packet or cup of dressing. You can request that some items be removed, or add others on, like grilled chicken or steak. Trust me: it’s not ideal, but better than giving in to something that’s guaranteed to be much worse.
*I’ve seen some salads so dense in calories and fat from chain restaurants that you’d be better off getting a double bacon cheeseburger with large fries! Watch out for salads that have breaded meat, a lot of croutons or copious amounts of salad dressing.
Have any tips for dining out that you don’t see here? Share them in the comments!