Restaurants, Decisions, and Zoning… Oh My

Eating out in Huntsville, Alabama and staying in the Zone can be a challenge. I love food and I love to eat out. Eating out and going to movies are my favorite activities. I have also lived in the Huntsville area for over 18 years and I love all the things that southern cooking inundates us with: butter, fried food, and gravy. This brings me to the dilemma, “How can one eat in the Zone and still dine in restaurants with friends and family?” This can be tough, especially if you are like me and love to eat out and enjoy all the things that are bad for you. Food is everywhere. It seems that humans have made the connection that food + friends = party. Think about the last time you hung out with your friends or family and no food was present. Can you remember this ever happening? The closet I can come is waiting at the ER at 11pm at night, and still a snack machine was present. We make choices every day about what we are going to eat. This becomes challenging to everyone as choices are sometimes limited, and we just have to make the best choice available in any given situation.

The easiest way to achieve day to day success is to pack your lunch and not to go out to eat every day. Packing your lunch and preparing for the whole day will eliminate a lot of the temptations and difficulty in making good food choices. However, for a birthday party at Bridge Street most people, including myself, don’t want to pack a lunch box for the night. So here are some tips on things I do when I go out to eat.

Looking at the menu before you arrive at the restaurant is a smart idea. We can now access menus online, which makes this task very easy. I tend to read the whole menu looking for items that are cooked individually. For instance, if I was trying to stick to the Zone I would never choose lasagna or chicken & dumplings. The items I would look for would be entrees that come with side items. When eating at Outback I get the mixed griller with steak and chicken, no rice, and extra grilled veggies.  Grilled chicken is almost always on the menu. It may come with side items or as part of a salad. Jeff and I love Taziki’s Greek Fare. We order grilled lamb salads that are pretty amazing, and very close to a balanced zone meal with no weighing and measuring required. This brings up the most difficult piece of the puzzle, “How does one zone without weighing and measuring?”

Once you have been zoning for a couple of months eating out will become less and less difficult. You will be able to quickly recognize about how much meat you need in proportion to your veggies in order to make a zone friendly meal. This just takes practice. Do not get discouraged, and remember that as long as you make the best choice available to you at the time you will benefit in the long run.

Below are more assorted tips on how to zone while outside the zone-friendly world of your own kitchen:

Parties of all types: Look for a fruit tray or veggie tray. These are your friends. The challenge comes from finding good protein sources, especially at baby showers and wedding showers. Cheese is often available and although it is not the best source of protein, it is much better than no protein at all. If you find meat but it is immersed in carbs galore, then do some dissecting. Pigs in a blanket are the most common, however, chicken is often disguised as well. Remember, alcohol is a carb, so plan accordingly. Lastly, try to eat a good meal right before you go to the party. This way you will only need a small snack, if anything.

Dinner out: Look at the menu before arriving. Choose items that are cooked individually. Grilled items are the easiest to find. Next, check out the side items. Steamed veggies are the best choice, however, side salads are also good. Stay away from rice and potatoes. If choices are very limited then beans and sweet potatoes are not bad choices.

Dinner with family or friends: This is the most difficult category. I usually do not have a problem at family dinners because my mother zones and understands completely. However, my father does not and sometimes makes comments about what I eat. However, he always serves his food buffet style, so I can usually pick and choose what I put on my plate. I also do not have any difficulty telling my family about my food choices. However, when it comes to friends I tend to not voice my opinion as much. I usually eat whatever they serve. If lasagna is served then I would eat some of the noodles and all of the meat and cheese. If it seems like there is enough for seconds I may go back and get a little more meat and cheese and not eat any of the noodles. Long story short: I do the best I can with what I am given.

Lastly, it is okay to occasionally cheat. Remember, this is a lifelong change in our eating habits, and it would be difficult to maintain such a strict diet without any variance throughout a lifetime. Thanksgiving is a great example. I did not even attempt to zone on Thanksgiving. Sometimes you just need to relax and eat pizza with your family on game night, and that is okay. However, that should not be the norm. Jeff and I cheat once per week and the rest of the time we eat a pretty strict zone and Paleo-ish diet. If you follow a strict zone diet throughout the week then you can relax a little on weekends and at special events without breaking the bank. You have to find a balance that works for you and gives you the results you want in your physical appearance, athletic performance, and your social life. Just remember, it can be done, and we are here to help you find that balance.

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