We’ve all done it: we managed to eat healthy and exercise all week long, and by Friday we’re feeling pretty darn good about ourselves. But then comes the weekend bringing with it dinner dates, parties, and Sunday brunches, and by Monday morning we find ourselves back at square one feeling bloated and guilty. Since Friday is upon us yet again, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to share my weekend survival tips for those inevitable calorie bombs we’re likely to encounter over the next two days.
1. The Date Night Dilemma. Friday, otherwise known as “date night,” may be our time to cheat on our diets a little and enjoy a meal out on the town with friends or a significant other, but a little cheat can turn into a big problem if we’re not careful. When everyone at the table is diving into that deep fried appetizer, it can be hard not to follow suit. Studies have shown that we tend to mimic the eating habits of those around us, so if your friends are having dessert, chances are that you will too. This is something I tend to struggle with, being married to a firefighter with a huge appetite. He can eat whatever he wants and still be in great shape, but as a woman I’m not so lucky. I came up with these guidelines to keep myself from a dinner disaster:
- Don’t order alcohol until you’ve ordered your meal. A sneaky money-making trick of the restaurant industry is to prolong your wait time and suggest that you have a drink at the bar while our table is being prepared. However, if you’re tipsy by the time they place the menu in front of you, you’re more likely to order an unhealthy dish or eat more than you normally would. By holding off on the booze, you can place your order with a clear head and spare the calories on that pre-dinner cocktail.
- Research the menu beforehand so you know what to order. Most restaurants have their menu available online, and many also offer the nutritional content of each dish. Make a healthy choice beforehand, and don’t even glance at the rest of the menu come dinnertime to prevent a last minute switch.
- When you’re full, pop a piece of gum to prevent overeating. We all know the portion sizes at restaurants are insane, so if your meal looks like it could feed a family of four, eat until you’re satisfied, then chew a piece of gum to prevent picking at the leftovers before the waiter comes by to bag it up. Trust me, it won’t be as appetizing with the taste of mint in your mouth.
2. The Cocktail Conundrum. Weekends are an excuse to let our hair down and let go of the stresses of the week, which means many of us will be relaxing and celebrating our days off with a drink or two. This can cause problems for our waistlines, however, depending on what and how much we drink. To keep it light and still enjoy your night, follow these simple tips:
- Have one glass of water per alcoholic beverage. Order a glass of water along with your cocktail, and be sure to take a sip in between sips of your drink to stay hydrated and consume less alcohol.
- Stick to lower calorie cocktails. Resist the urge to order that monster margarita, and opt for a skinny version instead. Beer, wine, and champagne are also good choices, as well as drinks mixed with zero or low cal mixers (think vodka sodas, and rum or whiskey with diet coke). Whatever you do, STAY AWAY from specialty cocktails, frozen drinks, and anything that sounds more like dessert; these drinks can pack up to 500 calories or more!
3. The Brunch Bind. When I moved to Atlanta, one of the first things I noticed is that people here love their brunch. And I too have since come to appreciate the breakfast all day specials and bloody mary bars prevalent throughout the city. If brunch is a weekly ritual for you as well, here’s some advice for enjoying your eggs without a side of regret.
- Keep those hands out of the bread basket! As a bread lover myself, this can be tough, but that bagel or muffin can often pack more calories than a whole plate of food. Instead, order a side of wheat toast to curb that carb craving, and take it easy on the butter.
- Opt for savory over sweet. Instead of that starchy stack of pancakes, go for something that packs a combo of protein, fruit, veggies and whole grains. Veggie omelets, fruit and yogurt parfaits, and hearty oatmeal are all better choices because they provide quality calories that will fill you up without weighing you down.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions. Must have that Belgian waffle? Ask for sugar-free syrup. Craving a side of bacon? Ask for turkey bacon instead. Order your entrée with a side of wheat toast instead of the home fries it comes with. You get the idea.
Bottom Line: Weekends are meant to be fun, and there’s nothing wrong with indulging a little. By following even just a few of these simple steps, you can still have what you want while sparing yourself a few extra calories and the guilt that goes with it. Have a great weekend!