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Strategies for eating out a lot for work and staying healthy?

If you have to eat at a lot of upscale restaurants for lunch and/or dinner for work, do you have any specific strategies so that you aren't tempted to overeat or always order the more decadent dishes?
Examples would be saving half for later, customizing with dressing on the side, etc. or making rules like always ordering soup to start.

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  1. I used to travel a lot for business- and oftentimes, I would order an appetizer and a salad. Would satisfy my hunger,and allow me to save my calories for any free time I may have on the trip- when I could explore the local joints and enjoy.ALso tried to eat a protein in the am ( boiled egg), This usually satisfied me until lunchtime. CArbs in the am always left me hungry before noon.

    1. Ask for half-size portions. Portion control is much more effective than interdicting foods.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Karl S

        And it is much classier than asking for a doggy bag in the presence of a client or colleague!

      2. depends on how often "often" really is.
        -- don't go to dinner (or lunch) ravenous
        -- i don't eat the bread
        -- i don't doggy bag
        -- i usually will order two apps, the entrees are always too big anyway
        -- i don't special order, sos, etc., because the food is never quite right that way, and you're just pissing off the kitchen anyway
        -- try to order a side of something green like asparagus or broccoli, because salads are usually quite fattening in restaurants
        -- i don't clean my plate
        -- i drink alot of water
        -- not a big meat-eater, so usually will have fish
        -- i don't order anything fried

        1. I do this a lot and my general strategy is to order some kind of fresh salad and an appetizer. I don't drink alcohol and never order dessert. While I'm travelling on business I usually skip breakfast and look for something light for lunch - sushi or a salad (except in San Francisco where I have to eat a massive dim sum lunch at least once).

          1. People make fun of the ubiquitous seared ahi but the day it falls out of fashion will be a sad one for me. Often it is the only really diet-friendly thing on a menu. Other fish often comes loaded with oil and sauce.

            1 Reply
            1. re: bibi rose

              Agree that often a simply prepared tuna (or even scallops or shrimp in an interesting sauce) can be the lower-calorie choice. It depends on the sauce on how much butter/oil is in there.

              Some restaurants sabotage this by including a Mt Fuji-sized "wasabi mashed potato" or "parmesan risotto" or similar butter or cream-infused starch.

              When I was consulting, Going out for sushi was my favorite technique for a healthier dinner choice.

            2. My strategies include:

              (1) Limiting myself to one piece of the bread. I know it would be better to skip it entirely, but experience has shown I am virtually incapable of doing that. So I just limit myself to one piece and make that one piece lasts at least until the food arrives.

              (2) If others at the table order appetizers, I always get a salad. I avoid salads with croutons, dried fruits, cheeses and nuts, and I always ask for the dressing on the side.

              (3) For my entree I order the seafood option. I avoid anything fried or "crusted", and get whatever is grilled or seared. If there is a sauce, I ask them to hold it.

              (4) I also always sub out the starch option for an extra side of veggies. When possible, I make sure the veggies are just steamed or sauteed.

              (5) If others are getting dessert I order coffee. If I just can't resist dessert, I ask if someone (or even better, two someones) want to share.

              All of this is with the caveats that I don't mess too much with substitutions or withholding if I'm at a chow-worthy place where I want to experience the dishes as the chef intended OR if doing so would be awkward in light of my dining companions (ie. out with colleagues I don't know well or clients).

              Bottom line though ... eating out at restaurants constantly for work is a challenge. I often resent being forced to spend my calories on mediocre meals. I would much rather spend them on chow I know is good, or at least have heard about and been dying to try.

              2 Replies
              1. re: charmedgirl

                Great suggestions! Much of the problem of eating out for business is the balance between getting the meal you want without making others feel uncomfortable. So I like your ideas of getting a salad or soup when others order apps, and coffee instead of dessert - so you're not stuck with an empty plate while your companions indulge! I also like to get mineral water or iced tea instead of wine or cocktails.

                1. re: Raedia

                  if it's socially awkward not to order alcohol (i.e. boss/client is drinking), you can always just order one drink and nurse it. that was my wife's trick when she had to do lunch.

              2. Last time I worked with the World Bank in D.C., I asked to stay at the Kormann Community Suites. Five minutes away from the Bank. Wonderful place. I went "home" as often as I could to prepare my own meals--scheduling meetings during office hours insteead of over lunch or dinner. Came home happy and healthy.

                1. On the road, I learned that if I skip breakfast I wind up sabotaging the entire day, so I never skip a good, healthy start to the day ie: yogurt & fruit, oatmeal, smoothie, egg, dry toast-combo there of. Def. java or tea.

                  For lunch I go salad and try to order one that includes beans/cheese if possible; dressing very light or just lemon

                  For dinner I go appetizer because todays portions are nearly a full entree.

                  I drink alot of water throughout the day and probably reach for a handful of nuts/pretzels/fig bar around 2pm if I'm losing energy.

                  A little big of planning for trips helps. My suitcase always contains an "emergency stash" of healthy snacks/instant java.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      I always brought my running shoes w/me when I travelled. It's also a great way to simultaneously learn the lay of the city and work off those meals.

                      For me, I order an appetizer instead of an entree.

                    2. You can ask for the sauce on the side for pretty much anything, not just salads.

                      Put your fork down between bites and take sips of water during the meal.

                      Skip the booze. Empty calories, plus not really a good idea for business anyway (unless you're a winemaker or something).

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: piccola

                        Watch out for steaks. Generally, steak is actually a good bet because its caloric load is pretty identifiable and (if you have an experienced eye) quantifiable. BUT. You need to specify no butter or oil to be added. A lot of steaks have been basted with fat after cooking; you think it's just juicy...but it's not just juicy. The more delicious it tastes, the more likely it is to have been basted with fat....

                      2. I snack during the day to kill off my appetite. A lot of apples and almonds for me.

                        1. Just remember to eat as if you were at home, not dining out every night. Maintain the same (or better) health regime as you do at home.

                          Exercise (I agree with at least walking daily when traveling). If I have time, I always look up the nearest Hash House Harriers group for a "local" fun run.

                          Focus on small plates (apps, salads, soups that are not cream-based), vegetables (steamed or sauteed with minimal sauce), and minimize the carbs (bread, potato, rice).

                          Enjoy a glass of wine, but not a good portion of the bottle. Drink at least 64oz of water (this is not including coffee, soft drinks, or alcoholic beverages) a day. I drink at least 12 oz prior to dinner. It helps curb my appetite.

                          For daytime snacking I carry a snack bag of almonds and dried cranberries. When I am travelling through remote parts of China, I carry PowerBars, Luna bar, or similar energy snack, since meals can sometimes be a dining adventure.

                          1. Chowpatty, this is a really good topic.

                            Especially at this time of year, the eating healthy bug bites me.
                            I find that nothing fills me up like liquids so if the season is right and the restaurant offers a healthy soup (ask about ingredients if it's not crystal clear), I will start with that as an appetizer. Then I'll have an appetizer or a large healthy salad as an entree.

                            I also make it a point to sip on a large glass of ice water as soon as I sit down, and to make that my main beverage for the meal. I may order a coffee afterward, but water keeps me hydrated and my body tends to confuse "thirsty" and "hungry" if that makes sense.

                            1. There have been times when I had dinner in restaurants almost every night for months on end. In NY,Paris,Nice, and Florence.

                              The secret is going to good restaurants that serve real food. The portions will be smaller,service more personal, and willingness to cooperate will be greater.

                              Dining out in NY is the easiest. They are used to every kind of weird request, and will make every effort to accomodate.

                              Agree with OP about walking. Walk as much as you can. In places like NY, Paris, and Florence, this is easy.

                              The last time I was in Florence for 7 weeks, I actually lost weight. Same with France.

                              * Keeping carbs and alcohol to a minimum is the game plan. Starting with the bread.... DON'T! Drink water throughout your meal, and limit yourself to one glass of wine.
                              * have breakfast, but a small European breakfast: Coffee and a roll, or bread, or croissant.
                              * For lunch in a cafe, have a salad or sandwich, eat only one piece of the bread. Ask for butter "a part" for sandwiches... they will do it for you.

                              * no bread with meals
                              * First Course have some kind of Salad. If there are croutons, leave them on the side.
                              * Order something grilled, poached, or roasted, with the sauce "a part, s'il vous plait"
                              * or order Fish

                              * limit yurself to one or two desserts a week.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Fleur

                                Btw, re wine with dinner: do as many Italians do at home during the week and add water to your wine. It shocks us Americans, but it's really more "authentic"....

                              2. I also do what many have suggested: no bread, lots of water, salad & soup etc.

                                But the big change for me was a mindset one. Personaly "eating out" is an activity, an opp to indulge etc.

                                I overeat when I think about eating out for work / when travelling for business the same way. "eating out" when working needs to be treated as 'nutrition' - that way, I'm not tempted to order the steak, when really, all I need is the salad. Once I got my head around the difference, it became a lot easier to lose or maintain my weight while travelling.

                                1. Always starting with salad (dressing on side), and ordering appeziter as main course. If drinking wine, ordering by the glass and waiting to order it until meal (less likely to have several glasses that way, and easy to disguise the ordering delay as a foodie "I want to make sure it will go well with my meal"). Mint tea after meal instead of desert or high-cal cap.

                                  1. No dessert
                                    No alfredo, cream sauces
                                    Order protein, high-fiber foods
                                    Avoid the table bread
                                    Limit the wine (although that is admittedly the toughest for me!)