How to "Eat Out" Healthfully
A user emailed, "What should I do when I am not able to eat off the meal plan such as going out to eat or on a vacation?
(This is a vegetable stir-fry I ordered "dry" at Denny's (yes! Denny's!) so it was oil-free and as heathy as a meal plan meal).
First, look at the menu for dishes that sound like they could be low fat (oil-free) and healthy, which means skipping past anything that's fried. I specifically look for things that can be steamed or are not cooked (i.e. fresh spring rolls in a Thai restaurant). I'll also inquire whether my meal can be made without oil. Most often it can, if not, I'll ask if there is another dish that could. If I end up with a salad (or that's just what I want) I skip the dressing, and ask for salsa (if they have it) or vinegar.
I'm also not embarrassed about getting creative with the menu -- blending items from different dishes to create my own dish. I did this once and the waitress and chef liked my "creation" so much that they decided to add it to the menu. I have also never encountered a waiter or waitress that wasn't happy to help. I think with so many dietary restrictions these days, it's not "weird" to inquire or ask for adaptions. Plus, as my husband says, we're paying to have our meal cooked to order. (Note: we always tip generously and leave positive reviews online when places accomodate us).
Next, I consider what meals might be the healthiest choice for me in the circumstances I'm in. This distinction is important. You have to consider your circumstances, not utopia.
For example, if I'm at home, and I'm making an Asian dish, I always use brown rice. However, if I'm at a restaurant, and only white rice is available, I'm not going to stress about it. I tell myself to do the best that I can. After all, white rice and steamed vegetables is still a whole lot better for me than deep fried spring rolls :)
In the end, we all have to find our own balance, but I try not to live to eat. I'd love to only eat in, but that's not realistic with my lifestyle and work (which requires constant travel) or social situations... so I shoot for 100% perfection and land somewhere closer to 85-90% and that's fine by me. I always eat vegan (plant-based) though - that's never an exception.
Use your intuition. You know what's healthy and what isn't. Make the healthiest choice possible and if you end up making a less-than-great-choice, don't beat yourself up. It happened the best you can do is step forward and make your next choice a great one!