Last night I went to a holiday dinner with one of my besties. We decided to mix it up and try a new restaurant – an Italian place named Sugo (that means sauce 😉 for some holiday drinks and pasta. When I was dancing professionally, I didn’t eat pasta. It’s one of those foods I just considered unhealthy and feared would cause me to bust out of my tutu.

Eating out used to make me totally anxious. More recently, it’s become a great way for me to reconnect to my body and recognize when I’m hungry and full.

When you’re overthinking your food choices, it’s easy to get anxious in a variety of food scenarios – holidays, dinners with friends, visiting new restaurants, they can all cause worry.

Amidst all the Nutcrackering you might also be going out to eat with friends or family who come to town to see you perform. Hey, eating out is also just a part of life that we all experience at one time or another.

Don’t let it stress you out, instead – enjoy it AND discover how it can actually help you with your eating plan.

Whenever possible, check out the menu ahead of time. If you’ve got friends coming to visit you from out of town, you might be in charge of picking the place! Find a place with a mix of indulgences and healthy options. You want to refuel your body with nutrient packed food after all those trips through the land of the sweets but still allow yourself to indulge – it’s the holidays!

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Consider sides to make or complete a meal. Lots of restaurants have nutrient dense greens – broccoli, spinach or broccoli rabe as a side dish. You can also add a side salad to your entree for some added nourishment.

Try to find balance – last night I had pasta filled with veggies (dense nutrition for energy and immunity), white beans (for fiber, protein, and antioxidants) and pasta (simple carbs – simply tasty and indulgent)! I even enjoyed some red wine and bread dipped in olive oil.

Eat only what you’re hungry for – remember, this isn’t your last meal or even your last meal at a restaurant. Last night was not the last time I’ll eat pasta, I ate about half the portion and was extremely satisfied. Plus – leftovers!! Added bonus.

Allow yourself to indulge. An easy trap to fall into with food is the pattern of restricting or avoiding certain foods and then going totally overboard. When you allow occasional treats, you’re less likely to gorge yourself on “bad” foods.

Share – it’s more fun! This is the perfect tactic for dessert. As long as you’ve allowed yourself to eat and enjoy your meal you aren’t likely to be super hungry when it’s time for dessert. Share with a friend or the whole table and have a few tastes to satisfy the craving.

Eating out strategies can help, but you might still be wondering how exactly eating out can help with your eating plan. Whenever I binged or overate it was usually a time when I was alone. I usually felt ashamed and it wasn’t something I would willingly admit to even my closest friends. I didn’t think eating half the jar of peanut butter was something to brag about – but it totally happened (if you’ve been there, I get it – you are soo not alone).

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When you eat out you’re enjoying the company of others and it can also be a “safer” environment to indulge. Use eating out as an opportunity to feel your fullness cues. Don’t feel any pressure to finish something if you’re no longer hungry – even if you’re feeling pressured by those around you. Stay present with those you’re dining with and enjoy the company of your friends in the joy of the holidays!!

Photo by ronsaunders47 on TrendHype / CC BY-SA

How to improve your eating while eating out.