Tuesday: Meet mom for coffee. Thursday: Birthday happy hour for Carol at that killer place down the street, you know, the one with the perfect jukebox? Friday: Date night at the movies.
Sound familiar? Unless you're The Bachelor being whisked away by a private jet for dates to hike in Montana or jet ski in Tahiti, chances are the majority of your social outings revolve around the food and drink scene. Whether it's a date night or a friend night penciled in on your social calendar, the opportunities for an outing to throw off your carefully planned nutrition are plentiful for the average person. No one wants to be a hermit, after all.
Jackie Lynch, a Registered Nutritional Therapist and author of "The Right Bite," knows how difficult it can be to keep up with friends and family while maintaining a diet in the pursuit of healthy living. "As anyone who has gone on a diet knows, it's fine when you're at home—you manage the ingredients, you manage the portions—but outside, it's a minefield. You don't know [the ingredients hiding] inside and the portions are wrong," she says. "Most of my clients are very busy, working people. I would write a beautiful program for them to follow, but then they're at work, they're busy and they would dash out to grab a bite and wouldn't know what I would recommend for them [to eat]."
The book dives into eight popular places for food decisions that happen on the go, working to educate readers on the key nutrition facts they should know before venturing out into our calorie-soaked world and, ultimately, liberating them to understand food choices better. Lynch, who gave up a corporate job to start training in nutrition 10 years ago, says that there is a lot of peer pressure and a sense of not being able to join in if you can't treat yourself to food or alcohol while socializing. The key is finding ways to celebrate without overindulging.
Lynch recommends looking at a menu to find things with the most protein, which will fill you up longer. She also suggests preparing by measuring out a portion of your favorite social snack at home to see what it looks like in real life. "You can't spend your life weighing things out and stressing," she says. "But you can practice and train yourself to know your portions. Sometimes it's a revelation for people."
Next time you hit the town with an old friend or a dear family member, merge your social life with your healthy life and grab one of these six smarter items.
Thanks to Central Perk, Café Nervosa or maybe just the many writers creating their masterpieces at Starbucks, there is no doubt that the rise of the coffee shop meet-up is showing no signs of slowing down. The coffee shop's convenience, caffeine and casual vibes make it the place of choice for a quick catch-up with a friend, a first date or just a morning gab session with a colleague before work. Beware, though: Major calorie offenders are probably staring you right in the eye as you order your green tea. The muffins, coffee cakes and cookies enticing you from the glass case are typically loaded with enough sugar to throw off your entire day. Ignore their temptations and nosh on these nibbles instead.
The Right Bite: Almond Biscotti
"The clear winner here, as it's lower in sugar and fat than the other coffee bar options. Blending almonds with the flour ups the fiber content, keeping you going for longer and has the added benefit of small amounts of energy-boosting vitamins and minerals, such as zinc, iron and B vitamins."
Honorable Mention: Bran Muffin
"Don't be fooled by the fact that they may be slightly higher in calories than other muffins, because they contain at least twice as much fiber which is great news. Fiber has the 'fullness factor' which keeps you going for longer, so you won't get the munchies later on."
Bars and Pubs
Barney Stinson maybe said it best when he declared, "Hanging out at a coffee place is not nearly as much fun as hanging out at a bar." They don't call it happy hour for nothing. If music and musings on life with your favorite bartender is how you unwind after a hard day at the office, keep in mind that the calories you drink—especially those from alcohol—can be just as damaging to your diet as those you eat. When you step up to the bar, be sure that you're picking the right beverage to stay on track with your overall goals.
The Right Bite: Vodka Soda
"Vodka and soda is the smart choice here if you want to keep the calories and the sugar content to a minimum as it contains less than half the calories of a glass of wine or beer and only traces of sugar. It's also a great way to keep the alcohol content low, as a single serving contains just one unit of alcohol."
Honorable Mention: Red Wine
"If wine is your preferred tipple, then red wine is the one to choose. It will be far kinder to your waistline than medium white wine or sparkling wine, which contain about 20 times more sugar per glass."
At the Movies
When did catching up with the happenings in the Marvel Universe become synonymous with inhaling a bucket of artificial butter-soaked popcorn larger than your head? Fact: Mindlessly munching in the pitch black doesn’t mean the calories don't exist. If you're not down for sneaking in some lighter fare, Lynch recommends sticking to smaller portions of whatever is available at the counter and stay away from heaping on extra toppings. Keep everything in moderation at this calorie factory and focus instead on the cinematic masterpiece or so-bad-it's-great flick in front of you.
The Right Bite: Nachos
"Despite the high carb content, nachos have more mileage in health terms than any other classic movie snack, provided that you're smart about the topping. Opting for guacamole could make all the difference. Avocado is a great source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and it also contains some protein, which will keep you going for longer, reducing the risk of sugar cravings later in the movie. Adding spicy tomato salsa will give you a great antioxidant boost."
Honorable Mention: Small Popcorn
"If a movie just isn't the same without popcorn, then opt for the smallest size available and try sharing to reduce the portion further. Regular salted popcorn is a starchy option, but it's still the better choice if you're trying to keep in shape, as sugar content is minimal. It's crucial to keep away from sweet popcorn—even a small serving contains at least four to five teaspoons of sugar."
Social lives often take a hit when dieting gets introduced, but with a little planning and some smart decision-making in the face of peer pressure, your calendar can stay full while your waistline shrinks.
What are your smart suggestions for sticking to a diet or fitness plan while staying active with friends and family?
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