Going out to eat with clients and colleagues is a part of a lot of our work lives. And, let’s face it, most of the restaurants selected are usually not the healthiest (ie steak houses). Appetizers, bottles of wine, heavy entrees, several desserts – we end up eating more than we would celebrating with friends and family. There’s just something about work dinners that gets us. It’s become the ultimate indulgent meal.
This doesn’t have to be the case, though. With a little preparation and some awareness during the meal, we can enjoy work dinners and still feel in control of our diet.
Here are some tips on how to navigate work dinners and not fall off a healthy eating routine:
1. Check out the menu in advance – once the restaurant has been selected, go online to review the options. Then pick your entrée. If you go into the meal knowing what you are going to order, you won’t be as tempted to order something unhealthy in the moment (and after a cocktail). Make a plan and stick with it. If there isn’t anything that looks like an option for you, plan to request a veggie dish. Most chefs will happily make a veggie dish with all the vegetables on hand.
2. Pick 1 or 2 indulgences – If the restaurant is known for great wine or dessert or you spot an irresistible appetizer, prioritize it. Then adjust the other parts of the meal to accommodate that choice. If you want more to drink, cut back on the apps and nix dessert. If you want apps and dessert, cut back on drinks. Or if an entrée is calling your name and it isn’t that healthy, don’t fill up on apps or splurge on dessert. It’s all a tradeoff. Find what you are most excited about and prioritize it.
3. Pay attention – It’s easy to get caught up in conversation and ambience and mindlessly eat or drink. Be aware of what you are eating and drinking and how you feel. You might realize you are more full than you thought (or more inebriated). Constantly checking in with yourself will help you avoid overindulgence.
4. Don’t compare your plate – We all have different priorities and nutritional needs, so don’t worry about what other people are doing at the table. Most people don’t care what you are or aren’t eating or drinking. Peer pressure exists, but as adults we should be able to stand our ground. Just stick to what you want to do and don’t worry about matching the decisions of others in the group.
5. Enjoy yourself and the company! If you eat or drink a little too much, know that you can pick up where you left off in the morning. No one meal does harm. It’s all the daily, repeatable decisions that make the difference in the long term. Stay the course.