ROY S. JOHNSON: Monday Is Not Too Early To Plan For Friday Dinner With Friends

TGIM! Yeah, Monday. But before you know it, it’ll be Friday. And chances are you’ll go out  with friends or co-workers. Amen. After the week you’ll have, you deserve it!

To kickoff your weekend, you and your friends decide to start out the night with dinner at a popular restaurant. This is where a little planning can go a long way towards helping you stay on your healthy regimen.

Don’t pass on dinner because you are worried about putting a dent in your routine. Simply get a game plan together and stick to it. By making a few decisions ahead of time, you can have a tasty meal of your choice and enjoy your evening.

First – Because you have been eating properly all week, rest assured that this one meal out will not undo all of your good choices. It is very easy to go to a restaurant and observe good nutrition principles.

Second- So how to do that? Look at the menu ahead of time. It’s the digital age, so that’s easy. Almost every restaurant posts its menu online. Read through the choices and–while you’re not hungry, or a bit tipsy from a couple of pre-meal cocktails–narrow down what you think you may want. Your clarity will at least plant a few healthier options in your mind.

Third- Pick one “poison”: cocktails or dessert. Both contribute empty calories to your diet (unless of course you order fruit for dessert). While a frozen margarita may be on your favorites list, so might the chocolate layer cake. By choosing just one of these, you can help to minimize excess sugar and calorie consumption. (Also, consider sharing- if the cocktails and desserts are large, you can always split with a friend.)

Fourth- Choose foods prepared in healthy ways. Anything that is baked, grilled, broiled or steamed tends to be lighter in calories and fat than anything deep fat fried or covered in breading and cheese. And don’t be afraid to make substitutions. I am a huge fan of buffalo sauce on chicken, so to save calories I usually ask if the chef can grill my chicken rather than fry it.

Fifth- Remember side dishes. A plain baked potato will have fewer calories than creamy, buttery mashed potatoes or fries. If your meal is a sandwich, sub out the side of starch for extra vegetables or a salad with light dressing on the side.

Sixth- Follow portion control. Unfortunately, many restaurant meals can be quite large in size. Don’t feel compelled to clean the plate. Bring home leftovers or split the meal with a friend. You can also order two healthy appetizers in place of an appetizer and an entrée.

Seventh- Condiments count! This includes: sour cream on the potato, blue cheese dressing for the buffalo chicken wings, and ranch dressing on your salad. Always ask for light dressings and keep them on the side. If something comes with a creamy sauce, use it very sparingly if at all. Remember, ketchup and mustard are lighter in calories than mayonnaise and other cream based sauces.

Finally, enjoy yourself. This is a time out with friends. Have fun and relax. Choose a light meal to compliment your wonderful evening and you can’t go wrong. To make life even easier, many restaurants are even creating “lighter” dishes for patrons. Ordering something from this menu may also help to put your mind at ease. Make smart choices and you will be fine!

Until next time,

Sammi (@flwsammi)