Dining out, especially on Nantucket, is a treat! And luckily, choosing to eat out on this little island doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your health in exchange for pleasing your taste buds. With an abundance of talented chefs who have access to the freshest seafood and locally grown produce, you can be assured that no matter where you go you will find a mouth-watering plate that will meet your nutritional needs.
But there’s more to eating healthy than just the ingredients of the dishes you are consuming. It’s important to consider the various factors that, sometimes subconsciously, can determine what and how much you are eating. Below, I will provide you with a few tips to keep in mind while preparing for (and enjoying!) a meal out on the town.
Eat when you’re hungry, not when you’re famished. Stick to your regularly scheduled meal times and make your dinner reservations around the same time you typically eat dinner at home… if you can help it. If you commonly eat dinner at 6 o’clock, chances are you will become hungry around that time, think Pavlov’s Dogs. Make a dinner reservation at 8:30 P.M. and you will be much too hungry to care about whether or not you are making healthy dining decisions, and chances are, that bread basket will be devoured before the waiter even comes to take your order.
You may not always have control over the time of your reservation, and when that is the case, have a light bite an hour or so before you head to dinner to keep your hunger at bay. But remember, when your reservation or dinner party plans require that you eat dinner earlier than you’re accustomed to, please do not skip lunch. Skimping on calories earlier in the day will only lead to the same conclusion as eating too late: overindulgence.
Set your intentions for the meal. It’s ok to indulge on a meal here and there but having control over when this happens is the key. To maintain power over your dietary choices, do a quick run through of your needs before you even look at the menu by asking yourself two simple questions:
1) How hungry are you really? Is tonight the night you will need a large entrée or will an appetizer or small plate suffice? 2) Will this meal be a treat where you will allow yourself carte blanche, or do you want to stick to a healthier meal plan? If you do decide to go carte blanche, more power to you, but try not to hold back on the veggies. After all, something is better than nothing!
Hydrate AND enjoy your cocktail. Most of us enjoy a tasty adult beverage as part of the dining out experience. Because of this, there are always questions around balancing cocktails while maintaining a healthy diet. The research is inconclusive, but the most recent findings are showing that one alcoholic beverage is better for your health than none (great news!), while excess should always be avoided.
Enjoy your wine, beer and cocktails in moderation. Before you order your beverage of choice, sip on a glass of water. It’s so easy to forget about the water glass when you have a delicious cocktail or the perfectly paired glass of wine to accompany your meal, but it’s vitally important to keep hydrated. Proper hydration is not only essential for proper digestion but it will also ensure the effects of your alcoholic beverage are kept under control.
The last piece of advice before you head out to dine – stop BEFORE you’re full. Eat slowly, attentively, and check in with yourself every now and again. After all, when you’re overly satiated will your really enjoy that extra bite? Chances are probably not. There comes a time when you must admit defeat. As mouthwatering as a dish may be, you must listen to your body and put down the fork before you hit your breaking point. Sometimes, the only way you’re able to carry the satisfaction from that meal with you is to take the leftovers to go.
So remember, when you are planning a healthy meal out on the town, keep in mind that it’s not only what you eat that you should plan for, but also when, how much, and what you’re drinking. And on the nights that you do allow yourself to let loose, let bygones be bygones and start the next day anew!
This article was originally written for Nantucket Magazine on June 10, 2016