If you’re under the impression that adopting a healthier diet means saying goodbye to your social life, think again. As a registered dietitian counseling clients on this very subject for close to 20 years, I can attest to how important it is to adopt the best of both worlds. You can live a healthy life and still have fun and enjoy at the same time!
Flexibility is key to long-lasting health changes. When you feel like you can’t socialize, have a cocktail, travel, order takeout or dine at restaurants because you will have to veer from your “diet” or “eating plan,” you might rebel. It is only natural that you want to enjoy your life. Healthy eating is a practice based on moderation, balance and enjoyment.
Prepping for the party
An important tip for preparing to go out to dinner or a party is to not skip meals and save calories for later. Instead, make sure to eat normally during the day so you are not overly hungry when you sit down to eat dinner.
If you restrict your intake during the daytime hours when you need it the most, it will almost always backfire. If you haven’t eaten enough during the day, by the time evening rolls around, all foods are tempting, as your hunger signals are on high alert. These signals basically tell you to eat whatever you can get your hands on. If you are at a party, that is typically going to be the higher sugar or salty foods right in front of you. If you are out at dinner, that could mean hitting that basket of bread and butter more heavily than you intended. Add in a couple of alcoholic drinks to lower your inhibitions even more, and it’s a recipe for overdoing it that night.
We have all been there, but we can prepare ourselves to stay on track with our health goals during these exciting times. Set yourself up for success by preparing yourself ahead of time with balanced meals throughout the day, staying hydrated, and having a protein and produce snack before you go. And be sure to attend your dinner or event with a healthy, safe and fun attitude–and enjoy!
Building a healthy plate while dining out
Once you are out at the restaurant, focus on foods with a high water content to start your meals, like veggie-packed salads and soups that will make you feel full. Then pick a grilled or baked protein-rich meal like chicken or fish. Don’t feel like you must order an appetizer and an entrée, which often is way too much food for one person. For example, try pairing a shrimp appetizer with a vegetable side dish as your entree. Request dressings and sauces on the side because restaurants tend to use way more than you would.
At a party, set your sights on the crudité and raw bar items like shrimp cocktail and sushi, and grilled veggies and meats.
Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and full and, most importantly, include a side dish of fun.
Healthier alcohol choices
When it comes to cocktails, it’s all about portions. The best choice comes down to the drink that you will have the least amount of, which is usually liquor. Enjoy vodka or tequila straight up with a lemon or lime. Or add an unsweetened mixer like club soda to keep the sugar low. Wine and beer are much easier to drink in excess because you don’t have as much control over portion size. If you want to go for wine or beer, choose a wine spritzer or a can or bottle of beer.
Name your drinks before the night begins, as in “I am going to have two drinks tonight,” and stick to it. Alternate with water or club soda so you stay hydrated.
If you are going out late, make sure to have an extra snack to hold you over. Food will prevent drinking on an empty stomach. And remember that drinking alcohol and eating more go hand in hand. Studies have shown that drinking alcohol increases food intake.
Dealing with peer pressure
Just when you thought you were old enough to be past the peer pressure stage of life, it strikes again. There is so much constant noise and chatter when it comes to eating healthier. The pressure can even come from friends and family members.
Part of the struggle of sticking to your goals is when you experience added peer pressure at meals. The people you surround yourself with can influence your food choices in one way or another: “Why aren’t you eating that?” “Will you have another drink with me?” “Let’s get dessert!” “Why did you order that? Are you on a diet?”
Try to stay strong and committed to feeling good and making choices for yourself, not because someone is pressuring you. Try not to take other people’s comments personally. Keep doing what makes you feel good. If you overdo it sometimes, you can bounce back quickly and make the next meal or day feel good again.
Include a side dish of fun
Pay attention to your hunger level and when you start to near fullness, do your best to stop eating and wrap up the rest.
Eating and drinking are a wonderful part of life. When you practice finding a happy medium while still moving toward your health goals, that becomes the magic bullet to success. It takes learning, patience and support to be more successful when it comes to your health, so partnering with a Teledoc dietitian will send you on the right path to get started on that journey, with good food and fun included.
If you are looking for nutritional help for meal planning, weight loss or any other reason, reach out to a registered dietitian at Teladoc.
Check out all the ways you can benefit from working with a Teladoc dietitian.
We’ve partnered with Daily Harvest to provide expert advice to help people stay on top of their eating habits. They make it easy with plant-forward menu options to help you get through the week without the hassle.
Updated March 30, 2022