You name a potential dietary-disaster situation on the road and I’ve probably experienced it!
Stuck with relatives who think a healthy breakfast involves low-fat French toast drowned in “lite” syrup with bananas? Been there. Stranded at a roadside diner where every deep-fried thing on the menu came out of a famous butter-loving chef’s recipe book? Check.
I get it: finding grass-fed beef or quinoa pasta isn’t always easy – okay, sometimes it’s darn near impossible – when you travel as much as I do.
In fact, all bets are you’ll have an easier time finding an authentic Prada clutch on Canal Street than getting wild-caught salmon at even the best hotel or airport restaurant.
To complicate matters, food intolerances lurk everywhere in restaurant food. Chefs are notorious for slipping egg into that innocuous-sounding chicken dish or gluten in, well, just about everything.
Once you get the hang of it, though, navigating restaurants and social situations becomes second nature.
Whether you’re planning your 2-week Maui vacation or just visiting your grandparents in Milwaukee, here are 10 simple strategies to eat healthy and get fast fat loss when you’re away from home. (They work equally well when you’re at your local bistro or Chipotle!)
- Mix and match. Survey the entire menu when you sit down. Let’s say you want salmon but it comes with garlic-cheddar risotto. The filet, on the other hand, comes with sautéed spinach and garlic. Politely ask your server to switch sides. Make eating an adventure. Maybe you’re traveling in the South, for instance, and never tried collard greens.
- Start your meal with a salad. Keep it simple and top it with olive oil and vinegar. One study showed people who started with a salad ate less food during their subsequent meal.
- Bypass the gargantuan dinner salads. Candied walnuts, bacon, taco strips, dried fruit, rice noodles, and wantons atop entrée salads are red alerts for fat bombs. Likewise, skip the sugary vinaigrettes and creamy dressings. Customize your salad (Chipotle does a fab job doing this) with avocado or guacamole, salsa, chicken, and black beans. Ask for a low-sugar vinaigrette or oil and vinegar on the side.
- Beware of red flags. Any entrée described as breaded, fried, crunchy, crispy, glazed or creamy translates into fast fat loss obstacle. Order your lean protein and non-starchy veggies grilled, baked, or broiled.
- You know what assuming does… Ask your server questions before you order. Ignorance doesn’t cut it. If you fail to ask, and your chicken dish comes drowning in a syrupy soy glaze (even though your menu didn’t say so), you’re responsible if you eat it.
- Don’t invite the enemy to the table. Banish the breadbasket before your server even sets it down. If you need something to munch on before your salad, ask for a small bowl of olives.
- Double up. Two appetizers as your main course provide better portion control than a gigantic entrée. You might order hummus with veggies, for instance, alongside grilled chicken kabobs with salsa.
- Share or cut it in half. Split that enormous broccoli-garlic stuffed chicken breast in half and share with your dining partner or get it to go before you even dive in. You’ll save money and calories.
- 3 bites and fork down. Your business date insists you must try the pistachio chocolate upside-down cake, and who are you to argue since you’re trying to score his 6-figure account? Rather than demurely declining, have 3 polite bites – we’re talking bites you would eat on The Rachael Ray Show, not during an 11 p.m. fridge raid – and ask your server to remove the fork. Trust me: your date will have no problem finishing that cake.
- Get ideas, not absolutes, from the menu. Why let your menu dictate what you’ll eat? Use it as a guide, not an ultimatum, about how you should enjoy your dinner. Maybe you want the wild salmon sautéed in olive oil instead of sticky soy glaze. Or you want that grass-fed burger on a big plate of Romaine rather than a bun (and hold the fries, please). Don’t be afraid to ask, since many restaurants are eager to accommodate your requests.
© 2013 JJ Virgin & Associates, Inc. Celebrity Nutrition & Fitness Expert JJ Virgin helps clients lose weight fast by breaking free from food allergies. She is the bestselling author of Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy, a Huffington Post blogger, creator of the 4X4 Burst Training Workout & co-star of TLC’s Freaky Eaters. Her latest book, New York Times Bestseller The Virgin Diet: Drop 7 Foods, Lose 7 Pounds, Just 7 Days, is out now. Learn more here!