September 20, 2011

The Five Minute Restaurant Diet

In case you couldn’t tell by my dearth of posts, I’ve been a bit busy lately. Unfortunately, I’ve also been packing on the pounds – which means I need a quick solution. Introducing: the five minute diet.

It all started with the fact that my company rules allow me to submit only one charge on my credit card for dinner. I can’t get a sandwich at one place, frozen yogurt at another place, etc… at least not without incurring some wrath from our audit department. But then it occurred to me that I could use this rule to my healthy advantage – to limit my decisionmaking.

Option 1 – Takeout
Instead of going to a sit-down restaurant, where the waiters are going to be continually trying to upsell me on appetizers, drinks, and dessert, I usually get takeout – which means I place my order all in one shot. Then I pick it up and don’t have a chance after eating some of it to order more food just because “mmm that was good, I am having fun, I want some more yummy treats!” Instead of constantly being faced with new possibilities, I order my food, take it back to my hotel room (which doesn’t have any other food options in it), and my decisionmaking time is cut down to the five minutes in which I’m looking at the menu and placing the order. As a result, my willpower only needs to last for five minutes. I can manage five minutes!

Option 2 – Controlled Eat-In Dining
On the other hand, what if takeout isn’t an option? If you know you’re going out to dinner somewhere, make sure you look at the menu beforehand. Most restaurants have their menus online, and not only will it help you to be realistic about what you’re going to eat later (and maybe eat a lighter lunch in preparation), but it can also help you avoid making a rash decision later. I typically pick out the healthiest dish or two on the menu in each category (appetizer, entree, dessert), and then commit that list to memory.

When the menus are passed around, I ignore 95% of the menu, and just look at the descriptions for my preselected options. For example, for my appetizer, I’m now deciding between shrimp cocktail and salad with dressing on the side – neither of which is a bad option. I still get a choice, so I don’t feel deprived; but my choice is now limited to only the healthiest options. Repeating this process for my entree, I’ve done the legwork up front, and now only need to maintain my willpower for the five minutes it takes to go around the table and order. After that, as long as you can avoid the bread basket and don’t swap dishes with your dining companions, you’re probably fine.

That does leave out one thing – dessert. Typically, you don’t order dessert in the initial round of ordering, but it’s an ancillary order made after you eat the rest of your meal. Many diet books will tell you to skip dessert, but sometimes (especially in a business setting), it’s just not socially acceptable to skip a course when all of your dining companions are ordering. But when faced with a dessert menu with tons of calorific options, what’s a girl to do?

Answer: drink your dessert. Normally I am not a fan of drinking my calories (because let’s face it, eggs and toast is WAY more satisfying than a few glasses of orange juice). But when it comes to a 150 calorie glass of dessert wine compared to a 750 calorie mini cheesecake… wine wins! (Oh, how I love those last two words). So now you’re down to deciding on your dessert wine – and the choices here really come down to personal preference. You’ve gotten your sweet treat but avoided the massive calories of a traditional dessert – cheers!


5 thoughts on “The Five Minute Restaurant Diet”

  1. Runner26 – that’s actually a good idea. I’ve generally only seen people get coffee WITH dessert or with some alcohol, but I’d feel comfortable ordering just coffee. The key is just having something in front of me!

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