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5 Ways to Order Healthy at a Restaurant (by a Fitness Model)

5 Ways to Order Healthy at a Restaurant (by a Fitness Model)

You don't need to go on a crazy diet to look good. You can eat a meal at a restaurant, you can enjoy your life... and you can look good.

I'm just going to say it. Eating dry oats and boiled asparagus at 4AM is crazy. It's also really gross.

And yet this is precisely what was going down in my kitchen just two short weeks ago, as I bit the bullet and wrapped up preparation for my first figure competition -- an event in which I was to stand on a stage in a very teeny bikini and very high heels in front of a line of judges and a packed auditorium where hundreds of people were invited to unabashedly scrutinize every line and curve on my body. But. You know. No pressure. ;)

I was determined to follow my coach's every suggestion, in the hopes that I would look as awesome as possible. It was not easy. And it required that I eat dry oats and asparagus at four o'clock in the morning.

Long story short? The show is over. I gave it my all and I did walk away feeling as though I had accomplished something notable.

Here's the thing, though… and I hope you’re sitting down, because I'm seriously about to blow your mind.

You don't need to go on a crazy diet to look good. You can eat a meal at a restaurant, you can enjoy your life... and you can look good.

Below you'll find a few tips on how to survive in the “real” world... and do so while achieving your fitness goals.

1) Become word-savvy.

I'm a writer. I love words… and so do most restaurant menus. Check out any local eateries and you'll see what I mean -- MADE doesn't have bacon -- they have “billionaire” bacon. Michael's On East even boasts a forbidden rice. Talk about reverse psychology.

When ordering, look for the “good” words -- broiled, blackened, grilled, sauteed, and fresh are all likely to stay low-cal. Smothered, crispy, fried, and just-like-mom's are all caloric pitfalls. (Sorry, mom.)

2) Order a salad... plate.

Yep. When you order, ask for a salad plate. Your eyes are bigger than your stomach. Bottom line. If you dish out a reasonable serving, and take rest to-go, there's less likelihood to overeat. And, while healthy food is important, healthy food doled out in the appropriate serving size is even better.

3) Don't jump onto the “extreme” wagon.

We all know what happens when we get on a wagon -- we inevitably fall off. (It's better to walk anyway. It burns more calories.) In other words, don't beat yourself up if you slip and have a bite of something you “shouldn't” have. In fact, take the word “shouldn't” out of your vocabulary. We all want what we can't have. Telling yourself you can't have something is a recipe for disaster (bad pun intended.)

4) Schedule your cheat meal.

Oh yes! Everyone should do this. It's an awesome concept, and one that should be adopted ASAP. Once every week or two, make a conscious decision to go out and eat a meal that is not conventionally “good for you”. My favorite? A juicy burger, sweet potato fries, and a Gigi's cupcake for dessert. Go wild! It's called a cheat meal for a reason! Not only will this meal keep you sane, but it will also keep your metabolism cranked. Note -- I'm talking one meal... not a cheat day, or a cheat week. You get the picture. And, pretty-please-with-a-cherry-on-top, make it worthwhile! Don’t McDonald's for a cheat meal. This is a special occasion! Your body deserves the best all the time, whether it’s broccoli or billionaire bacon. So don't cheat your cheat!

5) Don't be afraid to be “that guy”.

Gone are the days when special-ordering something meant an eye-roll (or worse) from your server. Most quality restaurants now recognize the demand for more personalized meal-ordering. Note the word “quality”. Luckily, Sarasota has an abundance of just that. Fandango Cafe -- one of my absolute favorites in-town -- even marks their gluten-free items to make ordering more convenient.

Bottom line -- You don't have to worry about being that guy who special-orders his food. If you want to save some calories, ask to hold the cheese. No croutons, please. Don't worry about making your needs known. It's your food. And you should have it your way.

The moral of this story? Life is short. Food tastes good. And your body's a temple -- so treat it like one! But don't be afraid to treat yourself sometimes, too. A fit body is a beautiful thing. But there's also beauty in moderation.

(Photo Credit: Steve Schadt)

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