While eating out is not ideal for maximum control over your wellness plan, it can be done with a little planning and creativity.
- If possible, glance at the restaurant’s menu before even arriving. Many restaurants offer online menus that you can peruse so that you can plan your meal in advance, just as you plan your meals in advance at home. Being committed to a particular dish (or several options, just in case there’s an issue with your first choice) can mean the difference between sticking to your plan and giving in to tempting menu choices because you feel rushed or hungry.
- Make your server aware that you have special dietary restrictions to follow – be polite. The more information you can provide to them, the more pleasant the experience will be for everyone. Don’t be afraid to ask detailed questions about menu items you are unsure about. If the server doesn’t have an answer, don’t be afraid to ask them to find out for you.
- Combine menu items to create a compliant meal. Find the main entrée you want regardless of what side dish it is served with. Then inquire about combining it with the side dish from a different entrée.
- Just say no to the bread basket, or chips and salsa, or honey cornbread, or whatever other “Foods to Lose” foods are brought out to keep customers happy while they’re waiting for their meal. Ask the waiter to not bring it out. This is a little more difficult if your family/friends insist on having these foods, but not impossible. Ask for some fresh sliced veggies to tide you over if you must munch while others are shoveling down bread and other things that are detrimental to their health. Also, ask for some water right away.
- Order salads with only allowed ingredients, and ask that the dressing be served “on the side.” Don’t be embarrassed to bring individual portions of a home-made dressing.
- Stress the importance, politely of course, that no grains should be on the plate (even if they come with the item you’ve selected, any good kitchen interested in providing excellent customer experiences should be happy to accommodate you).
- Give the kitchen the opportunity to be creative. Any good chef loves the challenge of being able to spontaneously provide something that isn’t on the menu (again, I stress the term “good” chef – someone who is passionate about food and creativity. You won’t get this at McDonalds, but then again, you shouldn’t be going to McDonalds anyway. Let the server know the things you’re allowed to have, the restrictions, and let the chef create something spectacular. Generous tipping is encouraged here.
- If the kitchen gets your order wrong, don’t jeopardize your success by just eating whatever they serve. Politely, but firmly, inform the server again of what you want and don’t be afraid to send the food back.
- In addition to maybe a little extra tipping, generous praise is also appreciated. If a server and kitchen has gone above and beyond to make your experience exceptional, ask for the manager and let him/her know what a great job the restaurant has done and that you will definitely be recommending their establishment to others following the same wellness plan.
- Send compliments to the chef. If he/she happens to come out to visit with you regarding your experience (rare, but sometimes it happens), shower them with praise. A word of praise to a chef or server can make a huge difference in their day. Ask questions. Let them know you appreciate their extra effort in making your dining experience an amazing one.