As I write this, I am traveling for work, having lunch in a restaurant right off the highway. I have always had to travel with my job, and it’s incredibly difficult to eat well during the times when nearly every meal is eaten in a restaurant. I have found what works well for me is to have a few restaurants where I have “go to” meals that I know I like, and aren’t a ton of calories. The Starbucks egg white and spinach wrap or a salad and soup combo at Panera are my first choices. If I know I am eating in a nice restaurant for a meeting, I will look at the menu online first and decide what I will eat. Then when I get to the restaurant I don’t even open the menu, I just order what I had pre-planned. I know when I am hungry if I look at the menu, all plans for a healthy dinner will be out the window!
I use the same techniques I use when I travel to feed my family when we are eating from a drive through or at a restaurant. When I grew up eating out was a rare treat. Like many people, I developed an outlook that since it was a treat, I could eat whatever I wanted. Bring on the fries and milkshakes! The reality is that if we are eating out more than once a week, it’s not a treat, it’s a way of life.
The same rules apply when my family eats out, as when we eat at home. My children don’t drink pop at home – they don’t order it when we eat out either. Needless to say, this is my rule, my children would happily order pop! When we go through a drive through I talk to the kids about their order before I’m being put on the spot by the voice over the speaker. Often my children will have seen a commercial and call out something like the giant Baconator as their order. This gives me an opportunity to say, “That’s too much food for an 8 year-old, let’s make a different choice.” Or, I will say to them, “You can choose from this meal or that meal, which would you like?” I also have no problem saying no. As in, “Mom, can we get ice cream with our meal?” Me, “No.” It’s not that we don’t indulge in an occasional dessert, I just don’t want them to get in the habit of expecting dessert every time we eat out. If they persist, then they get to hear my lecture titled, “Just Because They Sell It, Doesn’t Mean We Have to Buy It” and no one wants to hear that!