I want to start this by reminding you that food is meant to be enjoyed, it is a way to feel good both physically and mentally and fuel your body. It is important to always keep in perspective that you have control over what goes into your body and you have the ability to choose everything you eat. Making the conscious decision to eat something, regardless of its benefits for your body, means that you are accepting how you will feel physically and mentally after, it isn’t fair to eat something and then make yourself feel bad about something. If you are going to enjoy something as a treat, let it be just that, a treat not a moment of pleasure that creates guilt.

If you are going out for a special occasion or even that the special occasion is simply that you have the chance to get out of the house and dress up, it is a meal to be enjoyed. Whatever the occasion, eating out is a social event, you are interacting with people and often have the opportunity to try something new, enjoy it and take control of your choices and how you feel after them.

This guide to eating out has been created as a way for you to either stay in control of your choices and show opportunities to follow the healthiest choices or identifying alterations to enjoy your food or treat yourself while looking after your body and have that feel good feeling after.

If you have the choice of where you are going it makes it is a little easier, make a choice based on something you know everyone will enjoy but you also know there is choices on the menu that your body will enjoy as well. Its not always possible to be the one that chooses where you are going and thats okay, it is fun to try someone else’s favourite and is completely possible to still make healthier choices. If you know where you are going – do some investigating – like Facebook stalking but for a menu. Have a look at the menu online and start to get an idea of the style of food, there is always an option to make it healthier, if thats what you are looking for. It is easier to make a healthy selection if you commit to your choice before you get there that way you aren’t caught of guard or in the moment.

• Don’t be afraid to make some changes, I’m not saying change the whole order – a lot of us have probably worked in hospitality and we don’t want to be “that” person but there are small changes you can make. Ask them to hold the chips or have the salad dressing on the side, these sort of little changes are easy to do but will be a big help for you.

• This is the only time I will say comparison is okay, have a look at the tables around you as their orders are coming out, have a look at the size and start to decide how hungry you are. This will help you to decide if you need an entree or if there is something on the entree menu you really want to try, offer to share with someone.

• Be strategic with your selections, if you are having a main that isn’t the healthiest option (which is totally okay -its all about balance remember), order a side of vegetables as your entree. This way you are filling your body with the healthy option first and making sure it is looked after and then finishing off with the food that you have been looking forward to and you can enjoy it.

• Don’t forget about the drinks, always start with water and keep yourself hydrated with water, any other drinks you order are there as a treat for you to enjoy but not to be used as your hydration. There is no reason why you can’t still enjoy a drink with dinner but make it an enjoyable part of the meal rather than just a way to swallow your food.

• Park the car a couple of blocks from the restaurant, this way after your meal you will need to have a short walk before sitting down again or even going straight to bed, this will help to ease the digestion for your body. (Note to self: choose parking and outfit accordingly – no one wants to be walking six blocks in heels)

• Eat slowly, this is important even when you are eating from home, this will allow your body to let you know when it has had enough. When we eat too fast, especially when we are chatting and aren’t focusing on what we are eating our body forgets to keep track and it is very easy to put yourself into a “food coma” and over eat. This will leave you feeling sluggish and bloated but it is easy to escape by just eating slowing, even putting your knife and fork down every now and having sips of water throughout your meal.

• Make sure you order something you are going to enjoy, going out for dinner is a treat and it is meant to be enjoyed. Making healthier changes doesn’t have to be boring or mean you need to miss out, its just a way of enjoying your meal without leaving your body feeling sluggish. It is also really important to let the people you are with order what they like as well. We are all on our own journey and it is not up to you to tell someone how unhealthy their choice is, let them enjoy it and you can enjoy your meal and how you feel after it.

Just remember you are in control of what you put into your body and when you make the conscious choice to treat yourself you need to also be ready to accept how you feel after. Now go out, book a delicious restaurants, get dressed up and test out your new skills! You got this!