By request from blog reader Mary I'm sharing some strategies I employ when eating out after having weight loss surgery. The first section is about my choices at sit down casual restaurants and the last section is about my healthiest options at fast food, quickie joints.
Plan Ahead: If possible get a copy of the menu and plan what you are going to have in advance. That will save you from making poor choices on the spur of the moment. Most restaurants and fast food joints have a web presence, Google their website and read the menu in advance. Here's another great resource for menus.
Make substitutions: You can still order your favorite chicken fajitas, but instead of the Mexican rice and refried beans, do double beans or ask for a salad on the side. Ask for double veggies instead of the starch. At breakfast get sliced tomatoes or fruit instead of hash browns. You get the idea — this stuff will take a little extra thought at first, but in no time it will become second nature. If it's somewhere else on the menu you can probably get it as a substitution.
Portion it: Ask the server to box half up right away. I just say, "I really want dish xyz but that looks like a lot can you box half up for me" Then get yourself one of these groovy gadgets that heat leftovers up without drying them out. We are no longer members of the clean your plate club. Facts are facts. We will sadly waste food or learn to walk out with boxes. Hopefully you can split meals with the person you are with but that isn't always possible.
I hate to waste water so when they ask for drinks (I don't drink with my meals post weight loss surgery) I say something like, "Nothing to drink for me, just had a huge coffee" and that stops them from asking over and over again.
My most restaurant common orders are:
Grilled Fish, Crab Legs, Shrimp with all veggies
Fajitas. No rice or tortillas, double beans
Steak with all veggies
Salads with some sort of protein, no croutons, dressing on the side
Leftover Crab becomes Crab Omelet, Crab Salad, Bites, Stuffed Mushrooms
Leftover Steak becomes Tortilla Pizza or this awesome Brunch Casserole.
Leftover Grilled Fish becomes a Salad
Leftover Fajitas becomes Breakfast, Salad, Tortilla Pizza
More Recipes for Repurposing Restaurant Leftovers
I love crab legs when I'm with a group. They take forever to eat, great protein, looks like I've ordered a lot so no one feels self conscious about my tiny portion, and leftovers are great the next day.
Enjoy! Enjoy spending time with the other people in your group and make the food secondary to the social event.
So that's restaurants. What about the dreaded drive-thru? Here are some of my Fast Food orders because life happens and sometimes you just have to...
In & Out Burger: "Protein-style" Single Cheeseburger with grilled onions (Protein style = wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun.) Most burger places will do variations of this.
Five Guys: Ask for no bun, they put it in a plate on top of lettuce, you can add grilled onions, cheese or some bacon.
Taco Bell, Del Taco: Order of Pintos & Cheese/refried beans with a scoop of meat or chicken added.
El Pollo Loco: Grilled Chicken Breast (single piece - they are huge) or $1 side salad minus tortilla strips & the $1 Chicken Taco El Carbon. I discard the tortilla and dump the chicken on the salad. Great meal for $2.
McDonald's: Premium Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken, no dressing (ask for salsa packets), they will sell you a grilled chicken breast patty only or a burger patty only too.
Carl's Jr: Cranberry, Apple, Walnut Grilled Chicken Salad (ax the walnuts if you are sensitive to sugars they are glazed) or they will wrap any of their burgers in lettuce. Just ask for the "Lettuce Wrap" version
Sbarro: Side of Meatballs or Sausage with Sauce.
Wendy's: Chili with cheese. Burger patty.
Subway, Submarina, Firehouse: They will turn any of the subs into salads. Watch the dressings, ax the croutons/breadsticks/flat breads.
Starbucks: Sous Vide Egg Bites, Egg White Whole Wheat Feta Wrap (I ask for double cooked makes it crunchy), Oatmeal (in a pitch when traveling I will do oatmeal, complex carbs, add cinnamon from the coffee bar), Protein Plate give away the bread, Soy Lattes. Here's my Starbuck's Post WLS Guide.
Dunkin Donuts: Plain Oatmeal (add cinnamon from coffee bar), SF Latte (they don't have soy well at least the airport DD's don't)
Panda Express: Mushroom Chicken, Veggies (side)
Jamba Juice: Oatmeal w/ Banana (no brown sugar)
Chipotle: Burrito Bowl minus rice (this will feed an Army)
Baja Fresh: Tortilla Soup (minus tortilla strips)
KFC: Single piece of Kentucky Grilled Chicken, Green Beans side.
Chick-fil-A: Chargrilled & Fruit Salad, Kid's Meal Grilled Chicken Nuggets with fruit salad and water, Some people like the chicken salad I'm not a fan,
Rubio's: You can have grilled fish on any of their salads. Ask for dressing on the side or better yet use salsa. My favorite is the Balsamic & Roasted Veggie Salad and I add Grilled Tilapia.
Panera: Cup of Creamy Tomato Soup (no croutons), 1/2 order of a salad (ax any carby toppings, dressing on the side), Oatmeal with Quinoa & Almonds (minus honey)
Diners, IHOP, Denny's: Scrambled Eggs with cheese and avocado is my standard. If they have turkey sausage even better.
That's about all I can think of right now. I'll add others if they come to mind. Feel free to post your orders or restaurant adaptations in the comment section. These are just things as a post-op I personally have eaten. When in doubt, ask your dietitian/bariatric surgeon's office.
Hey and don't feel guilty if you make a poor choice. Life happens. You can't rewind time, so you might as well get over it. Start planning your next healthy meal.
Healthy Travel Tips: Keeping Your Health On Track While Traveling