I’ve been on a few dates lately, and, while it hasn’t been my intention to splurge, I’ve been ordering pasta covered in cream sauces, nachos drenched in cheese, burgers with eggs-over-easy (and fries!) on top, and multiple glasses of wine. After the last date, I literally thought, “If this keeps up, my waistline is screwed. Or I’ll be spending half my life at the gym.” Neither really appeals to me, folks.
So, what’s a single woman to do? I asked two experts how to date while staying on top of your healthy eating goals. Here are the rules they suggested I follow.
Rule #1: Watch your beverage intake The nervous energy that accompanies most dates, especially first dates, can lead us allto drink a little too much. “To keep your cool and keep the calories at bay, drink a full glass of water between each alcoholic beverage, and stick to wine, beer, or cocktails with low-calorie mixers, like tonic or soda water,” says Barbara Linhardt, MS, RD, founder of Five Sense Nutrition.
Rule #2: Know the restaurant buzz words You don’t have to default to a salad. “Read the menu carefully—there are clues everywhere as to which foods are the healthiest choices,” says Linhardt. “Pick items that are steamed, grilled, broiled, baked, roasted, or poached. Opt for dishes made with an assortment of vegetables, or ones that come with vegetable side dishes.” Those are good choices. Bad choices include anything described as crispy, pan-fried, fried, or creamy, and foods in white or butter sauces. Those options are sure to pack on calories and fat.
Rule #3: Share or save on high-calorie choices If your restaurant of choice doesn’t have a ton of healthy options, ask your date to share a higher calorie item. “That way, you get to try something delicious without going overboard on the portion,” Linhardt says. “Or order what you want and box up half up for later—for example if you order a steak, save half the steak and toss it on a salad for lunch tomorrow.” Restaurant portions tend to be massive anyway—chances are, you only need half. Decide before the meal that’s all you’ll eat, and you’re less likely to overdo it when the plate shows up.
Rule #4: Create a mix and match meal When menu options are a bit limited, rely on creativity. “Instead of ordering just a large dinner salad or giving up and getting the burger and fries, choose a couple of healthy appetizers or side dishes,” says Linhardt. “Get a side of roasted vegetables, an order of the ceviche, and sweet potato fries; or at breakfast, get two poached eggs, tomato and a side of whole grain toast. Without looking picky or restrictive, you’ve just created a delicious healthy meal.”
Rule #5: Plan the date yourself If you’re really trying to stick to your diet, Linhardt recommends taking charge and suggesting a spot you know will have decent options. “Pick a restaurant that you’ve been to before, or a type of cuisine that you know will have healthy choices,” says Linhardt. That Mexican restaurant with the tasty black bean and veggie taco, for example. Or if you’ve made it past the first few awkward dates (gold star for you!), consider surprising your new special someone with a healthy, home-cooked meal. “You can control the ingredients and impress your date,” says Linhardt.
Rule #6: If you plan the date, be flexible On the flip side, if go the “plan the date” route, keep the suggestions to a minimum. Plant the seed in a very low-key way. “Insisting on a certain restaurant may look a bit pushy, but insisting is different than suggesting,” says dating expert Neely Steinberg, author of Skin in the Game: Unleashing Your Inner Entrepreneur to Find Love. “Say, ‘I love such-and-such restaurant. They have tons of fresh, delicious dishes. Have you been?’ He should get the hint.” And if he doesn’t? Try Linhardt’s rules above.
Rule #7: Don’t be too rigid date Even with the best of intentions, you might still find yourself indulging on your next date. (Been there—whoops!) If you splurge, chalk it up to living your life. Forgive yourself, and get back on the wagon tomorrow—it won’t kill you, or your health goals. “A lot of guys appreciate a woman who can let go of control when it comes to eating,” says Steinberg. “That doesn’t mean you have to eat burgers and fries every night, but giving in to a calorie fest every now and then when out for dinner or dessert with a guy signals to him that you have a healthy relationship with food, and that it doesn’t control your every thought and decision.” And it shouldn’t. Dating can feel painful at times—and sitting down to try some new food, or enjoying an old favorite should be the fun part. Enjoy it!
Are you in the singles pool? Got a tip for those wading in it? Share your thoughts in the comments below!