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  • mariasylvesterterr

5 mindset shifts for takeout and restaurant meals

Let's talk takeout... in a non-diet way.

My sister recently moved to New Orleans, and as you know, with moving often comes a lot of takeout. While enjoying pizza and salads together, she asked, "Where did we ever learn that ranch dressing cancels out the salad?" What an absurd yet widely believed notion, right?

Not every meal is going to be prepped at home. You might dine out or order out regularly. You might eat meals lovingly cooked by friends or family. These are often the most flavorful and community-oriented meals, and sadly... we can carry some guilt about the meals we don't prepare ourselves.

Can we find a middle ground between ordering what we want and accessing supportive nutrition? Of course! And no, it doesn't mean ordering salad if you don't actually want one.

If ordering takeout or restaurant meals brings a flood of questions, decision fatigue, or guilt, here's what I need you to know:

  • Let's address the dressing. Salad dressing contains fat that helps you absorb the fat-soluble vitamins in your salad. Enjoy it however you like. After years of ordering solely oil and vinegar in pursuit of "health," let me tell you that a well-paired dressing is what makes a salad!

  • Consider the "how" over the "what." We get so engrossed in what to order -- what's healthy? what's not? what's too much? what's got enough protein? -- that we are often disconnected from our "how." How hungry do you feel? How quickly or slowly are you eating? How do you want to feel after the meal? These "how" questions matter for both the present moment and your long-term relationship with food.

  • Think pattern over plate. In other words, focus on the pattern of your intake rather than fixating on single meals at a time. If it feels good to invite gentle nutrition into your experience, take a moment to consider what nutrition you've missed out on during the day and if there's an item on the menu that helps fill in any gaps. This could even mean ordering a bottle of sparkling water if you've missed out on hydration earlier in the day!

  • All food delivers nutrition. If the idea of "empty calories" invades your brain when you're looking at a menu, remember that all food delivers energy and nutrition. A cheeseburger delivers fat, carbs, and protein. The same goes for chicken tenders and fries. Same for the ahi tuna salad. The proportions of those nutrients, the amount of energy, and the presence of fiber in those meals deliver will vary. And also, calories are energy, not empty.

  • Shifts are welcome. Tired of your takeout streak? Feeling sluggish after multiple meals out? Looking to prepare some food at home instead? That's not diet culture; that's a personal and nuanced shift. It's a great way to save money, too! As I mentioned above, it's important to do what's in alignment with your needs.

The only black-and-white notion I have to offer today is that we're getting fries for the table. And, that's final.

Which gray area stands out to you the most? What would you add? I'd love to read your thoughts in the comments.

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