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Dining Socially with Friends

Dining Out with Friends: Tips and Tricks on How to Keep Your Social Life Healthy

With all the good happening in your newfound healthy life, from the way you feel in the morning to the compliments you receive on your healthy glow and/or all that glorious weight loss, it would seem nothing can get you down. That is, until you sit down at a restaurant (or even someone else’s home) with your friends and they watch (judge?) every bite and sip, and hang on every question you ask the server before making a decision. Sometimes it’s a friendly inquisition brought on by a genuinely curious friend who wants to change their own life. Other times, it’s the third degree brought on by a friend who is projecting their bad decisions onto you. I’d like to welcome you to the dark side of living in health: Dining out.

Unfortunately, we never know which line of questioning we’re going to get. I’m sure you’d like to keep the people in your life. You just need to find balance. The best way to handle this is to learn simple tips and tricks that keep your body, family, and social life in tiptop shape.

Dining out Do’s…

Communicate Your Needs:

When you’re making dinner plans, don’t be shy. Pick a restaurant that will work for your eating plan. Let your friends know that you have to be careful with the foods you’re putting in your body. Tell them right away that fast food and buffets are just not on the table for you. Be prepared to answer questions, and follow them up with your own suggestions. Try not to sound critical or self-righteous—remember that some will be more sensitive than others.

Find Common Ground! Pick a Restaurant Everyone Likes:  

  • Seafood: Cod, scallops, shrimp, and crab (not imitation!) are among the lower calorie fish. Load up on the veggies. Watch the sauces! Try and choose low-fat sauces like mustard, cocktail sauce, lemon juice, horseradish, wine, garlic, spicy tomato, or just have it grilled dry. Seafood broth makes a great dip over butter for crab and lobster. Try that!
  • Burgers: Pick a place that uses good quality beef (research!). Call ahead and see if they make homemade veggie burgers. Toss the bun and ask them to wrap your burger in lettuce or on top of a bed of greens.
  • Italian: Not all Italian consists of pizza and pasta. Find an Italian restaurant that has a selection of protein entrees with a side of roasted veggies. Most Italian restaurants have an array of things to choose from like grilled fish and chicken dishes. Choose sauces like tomato, red clam, or marinara over the heavier options like alfredo, butter, or pesto. Say no to bread and yes to mixed green/tossed salad (no antipasto or Caesar-these are drenched in fat)!
  • Thai: Thai restaurants usually have plenty of dairy-free and gluten-free options. If there’s a vegan in your group, they’ll love Thai. You can’t go wrong with the chicken and veggie green curry with brown rice.
  • Sushi: Instead of white rice, ask for brown or black rice—don’t knock it til you try it! Skip the spicy mayo and teriyaki, and choose the low sodium soy sauce instead (just ask for it). Avocado is a nice alternative to cream cheese. Be sure to ask about the crab—more than likely it’s imitation. Choose salmon, shrimp, or eel. When in doubt, always ask! Servers in sushi restaurants are always prepared to be bombarded with questions. You won’t be the only one.
  • Mexican: Allow yourself a certain number of chips and salsa, and then STOP. Push the basket away from you—have the server take them away. I bet your friends follow your lead. Salsa is a great dip or substitute for dressing. Choose guacamole over sour cream; it’s high in unsaturated fats. If you order taco salad, skip the taco shell bowl. Choose chicken or shrimp instead of the ground beef. Skip the fried entrees. Lighten up on the cheese. Choose beans over the rice (high in carbs).


Be Prepared

If you’re afraid of being a pest and holding up your server and friends with questions, read the menu online beforehand and call the restaurant with questions. It can’t hurt to navigate through the ingredients before you go, in order to stay true to your own lifestyle and avoid uncomfortable/annoying scenes at the same time.


Stick to Your Guns and Stay on Track

Dining out with friends doesn’t mean that you have to throw away all your hard work. The hard part is accepting that it’s likely there will be unhealthy appetizers and bread on the table. Just because you’re living a certain way does not mean that your friends are, too. This is where mind over matter has to come into play. Make a deal with yourself before you even get there and stick to it. While the bread’s on the table make that your turn to catch up. Tell a funny story. Lean back in your chair, hold your drink in your hand and keep your focus on your friends’ smiling faces. Keep in mind that you are stronger than a loaf of bread or fried appetizer. Remember the power behind staying true to yourself!


Dining out Do NOT’s


  • Preach to your friends/put them on the spot. This goes without saying, really. It’s never ideal to point at someone’s plate and shame them in front of everyone. That’s a way to hurt feelings and lose a friend. If they happen to ask about your new lifestyle, get creative. Find a way to discuss what bad carbs do to your body without pointing at their bowl of bad carbs. Talk about how great you feel by cutting out that bun, those noodles, and sugar. You won’t have to say a lot—they’ll see it in the way you look! Talk about how delicious your meal is and how you don’t even miss the heavy cream and greasy cheese. They’ll believe you!
  • Get mad when they order dessert. Remember, you’re already in the door of a healthy lifestyle. You don’t crave sugar anymore. You’ve killed the candida, but they have not. In social settings, it’s common for people to overeat and indulge. Just because you’ve learned how to avoid this behavior doesn’t mean that everyone else will be on board. Simply order a tea or coffee, lean back and enjoy the conversation. Trust me, even if three of them are forking away at that dessert, you are the one with the power—you are the one who didn’t succumb to food pressure.


Final Thoughts

While we all hate being under the microscope, remember that living in health can also be contagious. When your friends are genuinely interested in what you’re doing to look and feel so great, set up a day and time for some one-on-one conversation. From there, you can share your new ways and refer them to Forum Health Clarkston. Just think how much easier dining out will be when you’re all living in health!


Adrian Schirr

Forum Health Clarkston

7300 Dixie Hwy Suite 500

Clarkston, MI 48346