Eating out after weight-loss surgery can be a little intimidating. In this section, I'll share a few tips that have helped me be successful.
This week, I've learned a few lessons in restaurant food preparation.
I recently made a commitment to eat cleaner. No processed food, no added oils, no added sugar, and no artificial sweeteners. I've been "clean" for two weeks. All my cravings have disappeared. My blood sugar has been stable. I have lost weight. And I feel terrific.
But during the last few days, my kitchen has been under renovation and I've had to revert to eating out. In the process of trying to find restaurants that offered selections that meet my specific criteria, I have discovered that they sometimes inject or marinate chicken with oil so that it taste better. Since I've been made aware of that fact, I also have been asking more about food preparation and added oils before cooking.
So, with my kitchen out of order, I have eaten lunch at a great little restaurant near our house. I found a little table outside. It was so delightful, the weather was pleasant and overcast and the food was simple and delicious. No cooking—no clean up. Fast, easy—and "clean." Perfect!
With the continued renovation in my kitchen, and the fact that the restaurant had a just what I needed, I decided to eat there twice this week. I ordered the same thing both days. Grilled chicken, spinach, sliced cucumbers, salsa and lemon. I specifically asked them to make sure that they didn't cook the chicken with any oil and they assured me they would.
On the second day, after I had eaten, the waiter politely came to collect my bowl. So I asked him again about the chicken. "The chicken is really good. So you didn't use any oil for cooking?" I reiterated. "No". he said. "No oil." Being a little suspicious, I inquired about pre-cooking? "Do you marinate the chicken in anything before you cook it?" "Yes," he said, "a brine with honey." HONEY ... Eeeeecccckkkk! I never thought there would be sugar in my chicken. The menu only said "organic chicken".
I had forgotten to ask about the salsa. It didn't taste like it had any added sugar. But just to be on the safe side, I asked if there was added sugar in the salsa. No sugar. Thank goodness!
So, the moral of the story...Don't be shy, take charge of your health. Always ask about how your food is prepared, and if there are any added garnishes, sauces, fats and sugars—even before it's cooked.
Like any other temptation, having a resolve or plan before the "point of no return" moments hits is the key to success. Don't wait until your in the heat of the moment to try to make that decision, chances are your best judgment or intentions will be nowhere in sight.
I have found it helpful to decide ahead of time what items I will order and avoid the temptation of the menu altogether. Once I look at the menu, all the choices can distract me. Not only are my eyes bigger than my tummy, if I’m not careful, my good intentions could go right out the window. That’s not to say I “never” look at a menu, but I do try to find other alternatives whenever possible. Before leaving home, try using the internet to check out menus and plan ahead.
In the beginning, just after surgery I found it helpful to have help...If I was familiar with the restaurant, I ordered without looking at the menu. If I was not familiar with the menu, I sometimes ask my husband to order or I will begin with checking the “starters” to see if the menu offers a protein appetizer that would be a safe choice, such as a shrimp cocktail. Ordering healthy appetizers high in protein for your meal can be a good option. By ordering the protein first I can rearrange the order in which the food arrives at the table. Then ask if the salad or side items could be served next, with, without or before the bread.
For example, once during a visit to a local seafood restaurant, my husband and I decided to share a meal before we arrived at the restaurant. We agreed on a grilled fish selection without any added sauces. Once inside, my husband looked over the menu and found the appropriate item, ordered a shrimp appetizer to share, then ordered the entrée to share. I just enjoyed the experience.
Planning your day ahead helps also. I don’t eat a pasta dish if I have had a fair amount of carbs that day. This helps me stay on track with food choices.
Next, in this series of "tips please" is probably the hardest part for me and most weight loss surgery patients.
Well, it used to be for me during my first year or so...now I've learned to maneuver around it.
Yes, servers, God bless them...I mean it...it's a hard job and they get treated unfairly, at least the good ones.
They work hard for such little money and then...they get blamed for all the mistakes in the kitchen.
I love when you are blessed with a server with a great personality and a heart to serve. Servers can make or break the dining experience.
As a matter of fact, servers are one of the main reasons I eat out, they clean the table. I love to cook, I just don't like to clean up.
The hard part for me, however, is really not the server, it's what they are trying to serve; beverages...I found it really had to give up drinking and eating at the same time. I'm a die hard southern iced tea fan. Although I've switched completely to Splenda, instead of the real sweetner...I still love my tea...hot or cold.
Servers just don’t think their jobs are complete until you have a beverage…so in an effort to save the waiter from heart failure or explaining my oddity of no drinking and eating at the same time….how absurd is that…I have found it easier to just order the beverage. At the end of the meal I will ask for a take-out cup, it becomes a treat for later.
I have found as time goes on that I can drink before my food arrives, I just have to stop before getting my meal. If I know I'll have to wait for a while, I order a beverage. Not drinking while eating was probably the hardest thing for me to get used to but after time, it became a habit...now I don't miss it. I drink so much between meals, it's a nice break not to drink, I actually get to chew!
Don't ask, request.
In this series, I'm sharing my experiences on restaurant ordering.
I have learned when ordering, sometimes it's better to make a request for the way your food is prepared, instead of posing it as a question.
For example, let's say I want my veggies steamed with no butter, I will say, "No butter on the steamed veggies, please." Instead of, "Can you steam those without butter? In other words, there is no option on their behalf. The choice is mine, I was decisive and made my needs known.
I'm not suggesting you be rude, I'm suggesting to get into the habit of standing up for what you need.
You can request, kindly, for what you “need”. They are there to serve you, that’s why you go in the first place. They may not have everything you want, but most places will try to serve you if they have it available. Kindness goes a long way. So be kind but firm and assertive.
You’re the one paying, remember. I request that my veggies be cooked more done, if not, I send them back. If it doesn’t go well I know not to order it again, or speak with a manager, or another option would be to find a new restaurant that takes your request more seriously. You do have options.
Some restaurants have pre-made meals so it is impossible to remove a certain item, such as an ingredient or perhaps a sauce, but most times if you choose the restaurant based on the menu choices you can avoid these dilemmas from the start. If your request is not an available, there is usually another option, be creative.
For example: one of my favorite "special occasion" restaurants doesn't have green beans on the menu, but I know that one of their appetizer selections is served with green beans, so I make a request for the green beans. I usually inform the waiter that I often order green beans and that I have talked with the manager previously about my desire for the beans; my request is honored.
Again, I'm not rude or but assertive in requesting what I need. If there were another veggie on the menu I could eat I would choose another option, at this particular place spinach is the other green veggie and because of the stems, it doesn't work well for me.
Once for dinner, I requested fruit. The waiter wasn't too sure my request could be met, since fruit was on the lunch menu and not the dinner menu. I kindly asked to speak with the manager on duty. Since I am a regular customer, and after explaining my circumstances he was more than delighted to serve me the fruit. The waiter was happy with the extra "tip" we added for his accommodating spirit. I'm always a generous "tipper".
Have it your way is not just for the BK...yes you can, we have many more miles to go!
Most restaurants serve food items backwards from the way weight loss surgery patients need to eat. It is usually beverage, bread, salad, then protein. So it is simply a matter of rearranging the order in which the food is served. Protein, salad, bread and later the beverage. It’s easy, it goes like this:
You could order water, or no beverage at all, or if you drink a beverage, stop drinking before the food is served, giving time for it to leave your tummy. Drinking before the meal and giving it time to go down, is much better than, “with” or “after” the meal. The liquid leaves your tummy faster empty. Wait at least 30 minutes to an hour before drinking after the meal.
Order a protein appetizer to come out first.
Ask them to hold the bread; if it's not on the table, it's not as tempting. Order it at the end, if you still want it, most likely if you have eaten correctly you will be too full for bread or dessert. Having a few bites of dessert or bread as a "finisher" to the meal, you are less likely to overdo it.