Mindset: Calories don’t count when you eat out with friends (or family on special occasions). Lunch, dinner, or at the movie grill – eat what you love, live… make a memory. Enjoy it to the max. It’s all GOOD!
That said, it doesn’t hurt one bit to at least explore the “lighter fare” section of the menu to see if anything makes you salivate. It can actually have surprising results.
For example, a favorite restaurant of ours here in Houston is Pappas BBQ. My normal order there used to be the 2 meat, 2 side plate. I usually ordered brisket, sausage, cole slaw, and macaroni salad (their sides alone are a reason to go there). So one time, I decided I’m gonna be good for once (snapping voice alert) and order the smoked chicken instead. OMG that was the most delicious meal ever! It is now, without competition, the reason I go there. I get actual cravings for that juicy, smoky, mouth-watering delicacy. The fact that I’m saving hundreds of calories at the same time is just a side bennie.
If I know where I’m going with time enough in advance and the restaurant has a web site, I like to check out the menu so I can give it a little thought beforehand. Hey, knowledge is power, yo. A lot of restaurants now have nutritional information that I find invaluable… and often shocking. It can make what sounded good in the menu not so appealing when you learn it has a crapload of calories. Yikes. Do I really want that? Is it worth it? Once in a while the answer is “Oh, yes! It is soooo worth it! WANT!” Cool. Revel in every freaking bite!
But more often than not, I find something else equally appealing and, as with the smoked chicken above, even better to my surprise. I’m giving up absolutely nothing. On the contrary, it frequently motivates me to try something new that becomes a favorite. Carrabba’s Minestrone comes to mind. Got a cup of that rather than my usual side salad once and wow! I will never go back. The more than 200 calories saved is incidental to what makes my taste buds the happiest.
Speaking of Carrabba’s… my favorite dish there is their Chicken Bryan. It is too delicious to even try to describe. It is conveniently served in 2 pieces so I can eat one there along with half of the Cavatappi and take the rest home to mouthgasm over the next day. I’m not eating half because of calories but because I’m entirely stuffed, especially after a cup of Minestrone. And wine. I will have wine, thankyouverymuch.
Carrabba’s is one of those friendly restaurants that provides nutritional information on their website. Let’s take a look:
- Minestrone, cup = 120 cal
- Chicken Bryan = 680
- Cavatappi pomodoro = 330
Total: 1130 calories. But wait, I’m only eating half of the chicken and pasta so my meal total is 625 calories. Plus wine. Did I mention wine? A go-for-it 9 oz glass of Merlot is 225 calories for a total of 850 calories. Well, that’s damn reasonable! Hardly even counts as a splurge.
A few posts back I said there was no magic here. There are trade-offs. You know what that trade-off is ultimately? It’s trading unconscious eating, eating whatever-whenever-who-cares, for conscious eating, being aware so you can make informed choices. With restaurants providing nutritional info on their websites – and more of them including caloric info on their house menus – it’s really easy to do.
(Featured image by Jorge Franganillo via Flickr; creative commons license.)