11/26/2012 12:56 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Make Friends With Your Menu


I'm not ashamed to admit that some menus scare me. Words like melted swiss cheese, cinnamon brioche, glazed pancetta, hollandaise sauce, buttermilk and salted caramel are, at times, impossible to resist.

Having control over your diet is essential if you want to achieve maximum results from any training program, but it's hard to put work and personal commitments on hold in favor of your fitness goals.

For many people, dining out -- for work, pleasure or convenience -- is part of everyday life, and who really wants to give it up? No cooking, no washing dishes and pots, and it is often faster and cheaper (and tastier) than cooking at home.

As I've already indicated, there are many dangers awaiting us on tempting menus. It's all too easy to be seduced by that first margarita or split the chocolate cake with your friend. Worst of all is my old enemy, "Salad or fries?" It's a ridiculous question! Of course I want fries, they're delicious! But, I know you're testing me so I'll have salad, or fries? Oh dear.

My clients complain about the challenges of healthy ordering in restaurants with limited options, or in dealing with late-night room service. It's true, it can be challenging -- but for the most part that's a copout, because you can make friends with most menus by following a couple of rules and a few straightforward tips.

Portion Control

Huge portions are what keep many restaurants in business. People associate more with better. This leads to even bigger portions until you end up with a country like the United States, which has frighteningly high obesity numbers.

A simple way of controlling the size of your meal is to upgrade appetizers to entrees -- a bowl of steamed mussels in fresh tomato sauce, for example. Add a side salad and you're pretty much home and dry. You'll skip the calorie-packed sides and turn an appetizer into a meal with fewer calories and less fat than most entrees.


When bread starts to digest, it floods your body with glucose, causing your insulin production to spike which signals your body to store fat. This is last thing you want at the end of the day if you're trying to lose weight or just stay on top of your nutrition.

If you do succumb, then don't butter or oil it. Although olive oil has no cholesterol and less saturated fat than butter, it has roughly the same calorie content -- perhaps even more if you're a big dipper.

Quick Tips to Mitigate Damage

  • Easy on the cocktails and wine -- empty calories galore.
  • Shoot for items that are baked or roasted, rather than fried.
  • Trim away fat on pork and beef and lose the chicken skin.
  • Keep sauces on the side and to a minimum.
  • Choose a tomato-based sauce over an oil-based one.
  • Instead of dessert, opt for an espresso with a little stevia to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Balancing your diet with your health, career, social life and fitness regime is challenging enough without making dining out a misery for you and your dinner companions. Choose wisely, remember less is more, and enjoy your meal!

-- Jamie Galloway

Image credit: Flickr, Sarah Parrott

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