Your Summertime Guide to Eating Right Away from Home

Road trip specialDo you find that you travel a lot more in the summer? Whether it’s day trips or weekend getaways, many of us are eating a lot more of our meals away from home. You might find yourself at a restaurant, a party or BBQ, making a quick stop on the road, staying at a friend’s house… All of these present their challenges to sticking to a healthy diet and maintaining or advancing your weight loss progress.

I’ll offer some practical strategies of what to do in some of these situations, but first and foremost you must get your mind set right. If you’re not committed to finding a way to eat healthy away from home then you will not do it. You’ll get hungry or tired and give in to the first tempting food that crosses your path. The regret (and the pounds) that follow are NOT worth it. Before you head out on your travels decide what you’re going to do. If you want to indulge that’s fine on occasion, but make a decision ahead of time and commit to it.

Restaurants are usually fairly easy. The challenge here is that there are so many tempting choices and the healthy options are not as exciting. This is where your mindset is critical. Unless you’ve decided to indulge at that meal there are a few standard rules I recommend… ignore the bread basket, skip the appetizers, alcohol and dessert.  Just look for simple meat/protein and vegetable dishes. Most restaurants will make substitutions. If the side is mashed potatoes then ask if you can get broccoli or green beans (or whatever healthier option you prefer) instead. If you’re not sure from the menu how something is prepared, make sure to ask. I’ve ordered green beans thinking I was going healthy and low cal only to have them arrive drowning in butter.

If you’re on a road trip and you need to stop to eat finding a grocery store or a farm stand is ideal. If you’re stuck with whatever dining establishment or gas station you stumble across on the way, that’s a little trickier. But you can always find water, black coffee or iced tea. You can grab a pack of nuts or seeds at a gas station convenience store. They’ll probably be salted, but you’re going for the lesser evil in that case. Your best bet is to be prepared. Find a brand of snack/energy/protein bars that’s clean and that you like. Always have them with you when you travel. When you’re on a long car trip they’r the perfect solution. Great to have when you fly as well.

What do you do if you’re going to a party or BBQ? These days a lot of people are trying to eat better and you can usually find some healthier options among the diet crushers. BBQs are great (for us omnivores at least ) because there’s usually always some type of protein (meat, chicken, fish) on the grill and that’s a pretty safe bet. Just make sure not to put in in a bun or top it with ketchup or heavy sauces.  Often you can also find a green salad and fresh fruit. Same goes for parties. There are usually some simple veggie appetizers or things like pita and humus in the mix.

Here’s another option… instead of food, put your focus on socializing. Rather than eating spend the time having some great conversations. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to forget about all the food when you’re really engaged with the people around you. Last but not least watch the alcohol. My favorite strategy… stick to having just one drink. You’ll probably be offered a drink soon after you arrive. Accept it, have in in hand, sip on it occasionally. You will be happy you stuck to the one drink rule, especially the next morning.

How about staying as a guest in someone’s home. This might be the toughest situation. If you all sit down to dinner, what you are served is pretty much it. Depending on your relationship you may be able to make requests ahead of time. A good host will often ask if there are any dietary restrictions they should know about. If you’re not in a position to ask for changes then portion size is your focus. At it’s most basic, weight loss/management is about calories in and calories out. Of course there’s more to it than that, but for the duration of your stay it will suffice. If you keep your calories within budget the majority of the time (think 80/20 or 90/10) then the food itself is not a big deal. You can worry about getting back to better nutritional choices when you get home.

So, enjoy your travels. Don’t worry too much about the food. Decide ahead of time how you want to handle each situation. Make a few simple smart choices and know that once you’re back home you can get back to your healthy eating plan. And if you do happen to pick up a couple of pounds during your trip, don’t get discouraged. Once you’re home, stick to your plan and they’ll be gone before you know it.

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