Dining out has always been a favorite of mine. I blame living in Washington, D.C., home to a thousand and one incredible restaurants. I am still paying off some of those meals (it was worth it).
Things have changed slightly since I relocated to Pittsburgh. I found myself on a stricter budget and, more recently, I’ve been very concerned about eating clean. That’s pretty hard to do when dining out. Put those two things together, and you find a person who eats most of her meals at home or at a desk.
That said, I do still dine out occasionally. It’s pretty integral to maintaining some semblance of a social life. And I follow a few rules of thumb to stay healthy and budget-balanced:
1. When you can, choose a restaurant with healthy options.
My favorite? Greek or Mediterranean. You almost can’t go wrong with this combination. A greek salad is always available, and there is usually a slew of vegetable-based choices. I always go for the grape leaves, and anything that involves lots of veggies, like this combination:
2. Splurge on something else – like a beverage.
Because I’m typically so budget-focused, I always order a water with dinner. But man, can an iced tea spice things up. I realize this isn’t really a “splurge” but it can feel like one when you’re used to always ordering water with lemon. Plus, it’s entirely clean and good for you.
3. When you do splurge, make it count.
I have one cheat meal per week, usually on Saturday nights. That’s a popular evening for wedding dinners or dinner dates. And I make sure to make it count. I find a place that’s different, something I want to really enjoy. A place I won’t find anywhere else – like this crab shack tucked away in rural New Jersey. I went there recently while visiting the boyfriend and indulged in something I knew I couldn’t make for myself. Plus, it was just downright beautiful there.
I ordered one crab cake and a side of fries. Though I was disappointed with the crab cake (it was deep fried – way too oily), it was nice to eat something I knew I wouldn’t make at home. Not healthy, no. But it only happens once a week, and I’m always sure to exercise that day.
4. Don’t say no. Just learn to revise your ordering.
There was a time in my life where I used to say no when people asked me to meet for dinner. I was a serious crash dieter at the time, and I couldn’t fathom consuming all of those calories. But you can’t let those thoughts consume you. Instead of saying no, suggest an alternative restaurant. Or eat a snack beforehand and just order an appetizer. Whatever you do, don’t let your diet rule your entire life. At the same time, don’t go buck wild with eating out. Find that healthy medium that works for you.
How do you navigate dining out?