From the clothes you wear to the activities you suggest to how well you tip—every move you make on the first few dates is under a microscope. And when it comes to dining, what you order or prepare is equally as important as chewing it with your mouth closed.
You don’t want to get a house salad and water as an entrée and come off looking like a weight-obsessed wet blanket. But you also don’t want to get a beer-battered pork hoof that’ll taste great but destroy your diet and make you look like a slob. To help keep you on point while eating on a date, use these simple tips…
1. Find out how the dish is prepared.
If the meal is buttered, braised, creamed, or pan-fried, it’s most likely packed with too much sodium, saturated fat, or oxidized fat. High-sodium diets can lead to not-so-wonderful things like heart disease and hypertension (the egghead term for high blood pressure). You’re better off with things that are baked, broiled, grilled, roasted, steamed, or poached.
2. Rethink your use of condiments.
Remember all that uplifting talk about heart disease and high blood pressure stemming from high-sodium diets? Well, here’s more good news: According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 90% of Americans consume too much sodium. Help keep that in check by cutting back on condiments like salt, ketchup, pickles, relish, and sauerkraut, and sauces like soy, steak, teriyaki, and honey mustard. Herbs, spices, or lemon juice are healthier alternatives.
3. Plan ahead.
Most restaurants post their menus online. So take a five-minute break from LOLing at cat videos and scope out what healthy dishes are offered before committing to a place.
4. Choose a restaurant chain.
The Food and Drug Administration requires chain restaurants to list the calorie counts on their menus. In theory, seeing that the provolone-stuffed lard ball you were eyeing carries 45,000,000 calories will hopefully prevent you from ordering it. Thing is, if you pick a chain, choose wisely. Olive Garden and Long John Silver’s, for example, probably won’t make the type of first impression you’re after, matey.
5. If you can’t, reserve a table somewhere local.
Independent or family-run restaurants often prefer to buy fresh, local products to help their food stand out from the competition. Menus that feature locally grown produce also give chefs the opportunity to create a wider variety of unique and healthy recipes centered around in-season ingredients. Another upside? You look like a champ for supporting your community. There is one caveat to dining locally, however—there are no corporate overlords to ensure servers will be wearing a minimum of 15 pieces of flair.
6. Order appetizers as entrées.
The more food you order, the more food you’re likely to eat. Appetizers offer smaller portions and can be healthy when they’re veggie-, seafood-, or chicken-based. For your starter, get a salad with fat-free dressing (or olive oil and lemon) on the side (without croutons, bacon, or cheese), and let the waiter know you’d like the appetizers to arrive as the main course. Or you can suggest sharing a bunch of small plates. That keeps portion sizes manageable and is a quick way to establish intimacy. Win-win.
7. Swap out your sides.
Onion rings, French fries, mashed potatoes, and pasta are all delicious…but they’re hardly nutritious. Avoid consuming the excess calories, fat, and salt by swapping them for steamed veggies. If the restaurant offers no substitutions—jerks!—ask your server to leave the unhealthy stuff off of your plate and order the vegetables separately.
8. Skip the beer.
A typical beer has about 150 calories. And when you gas them like it’s “Rush Week,” your body will end up burning the alcohol instead of fat. Gin or vodka, straight up or on the rocks, or red wine would be better options—if you can drink in moderation. Too much booze can hinder muscle growth, lower testosterone, and cause you to come clean about the time you cried at the end of Alex Cross. Info like that should be revealed no earlier than date number 17.
9. Cook at home.
Offering to cook not only puts you in control of what goes on the plate and how it’s prepared, but it tells your date that you’re willing to put forth an effort to please them. Plus, it’s the perfect way to get the person into your apartment, which makes hooking up that much easier…so long as you remember to clean your bathroom and remove the fungus cream from your medicine cabinet.
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