Eating Out

Restaurant dining can present big challenges for health-motivated eaters. We offer tips for finding the best food options available and strategies for ordering healthy, satisfying meals from almost any menu.

Eating out offers many potential benefits – tasty food, fun with friends, and a break from cooking – but it can also lead to pitfalls for your well-being.

This week on The Living Experiment we unpack the challenges of Eating Out, including the hidden world of food suppliers, cuisines built for profit rather than health, and misconceptions about gluten-free menus.

We provide suggestions for taking command in making educated food choices – how to identify restaurants that value good food sourcing and think outside the box when ordering from a menu.

To make eating out a life-giving experience, we offer experiments that encourage exploration and creativity in your dining adventures.

“Eating Out” Episode Highlights

  • Getting past “I can’t eat anything” and “I must eat everything” mindsets, and making empowered food choices instead (3:30)
  • Embracing dining as a pleasurable experience vs. an exercise in self-denial and “nutritionism” (6:30)
  • Scoping out and supporting places that make healthy food from good sources (8:10)
  • The value of knowing the types of restaurants that work for your preferred eating approach (9:30)
  • A caution about “greenwashing” — industrial factory-farmed foods as “farm fresh” or sustainably/humanely raised when they aren’t (11:55)
  • What your server can tell you about a restaurant’s real values (12:30)
  • Keywords to try when using mobile apps to search for healthy places in unfamiliar locations (13:30)
  • Items to look for — and avoid — when browsing a menu (15:10)
  • Mixing-and-matching to create an edible meal almost anywhere (18:15)
  • Creative solutions for ordering vegetables when they’re not well represented on the menu (20:30)
  • Clues that a restaurant is sourcing their food consciously and imaginatively — or not (25:15)
  • Industrial supply-chain insights — the reality of where most restaurants get most of their food (26:50)
  • Strategies for gluten-free dining (29:30)
  • How not to be a prisoner of gluten-free menus, and how you can expand your healthy GF options (32:20)
  • The tyranny of the menu, and how to advocate for your own best interests (34:50)
  • The problem with kids’ menus (36:20)
  • Pre-nibbling veggies as a damage-control strategy for iffy restaurant situations (39:00)
  • Deciding about alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages with meals (40:15)
  • Dessert as an optional pleasure (45:20)
  • Dessert alternatives (49:40)
  • Suggested experiments for the week (53:00)

The next time you go out to eat, try a new restaurant by asking for recommendations.

  • If you’re traveling, ask a local or use specific search terms in an app like Yelp.
  • If you’re at home, ask a friend for his or her faves (based on your stated priorities).
  • Strive to find a place offering locally-sourced or farm-to-table food.

Ask for food swaps that suit your preferences, and through practice, expand your comfort level in asking for what you want.

  • If an entrée comes with two sides (like a potato or rice or pasta plus veggie), consider swapping out the starchy option for another non-starchy vegetable.
  • If you like the looks of a protein-based starter option, order that and combine it with extra veggies or other sides.
  • Ask about available fresh green vegetables that might not be listed as side options but could be easily and simply prepped for you (per Dallas’s trademark request, “Can you cook me something green?”)
  • Asking for what you want gets easier (and more addictive) every time you do it.

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