The Obstacle Meter – 13: Social Network

13: Social Network

My friends and I eat out (wine and dine) more than we probably should.

Friends are great, but social situations often involve high calorie foods and drinks. Food is a way we connect with people, share experiences, and celebrate. It is possible to keep those relationships while trying to eat a healthier. Here are some ways to eat healthier when it seems you and your friends are always going out:


Nutrition Rules: even if they seem arbitrary, decide what and how much as well as when and where you will eat tempting food. Take control of the situation, do not let it passively happen to you. 

Talk to Your Friends and Tell Them about Your Goals: They can help you stick to them.  You friends should know your goals well enough that when they are making a decision on where to eat or drink, they automatically factor your goals into their decision making.  This can take several conversations, but it is very important for you to be on the same page.

Start a Dinner Group: Take turns cooking or do it potluck style.  Eating out does not have to mean eating at a restaurant it can also be eating at a friend’s house in a more relaxing and less expensive atmosphere.

Plan Ahead: if you are going to be eating out, bank (eat fewer) calories during the day or week before. We tend to view calories as calories/day but it all counts.  Calories per week, month, and year determine your weight and your health just as much as calories/day.

Avoid Going Out to Eat and Getting Fast Food by Yourself: This can be viewed as part of the inconvenience principle.  The more inconvenient something is to do, the less likely you are to do it.  If finding a friend to go out with you is a requirement for eating out, we will be less likely to eat out and when we do eat out, we will tend to enjoy it more.

Use Restaurant Apps and Websites to Check the Menu and Nutrition Information:  If you wait to get to the restaurant to make your food decision, you have already lost.  Restaurant food is far too tempting and appealing to make the healthy decision in the moment.  If you make the decision ahead of time, you will not have to make a food decision at the restaurant when you are hungry, and your defenses are down.

Pick Restaurants with a Light Menu:  Not all restaurants are created equal.  Some restaurants do not even attempt to be healthy, some masquerade as healthy, and some actually do offer primarily healthy options.  Know your objective going into it, if you are solely focused on taste, focus on taste, if you want to save a few calories, save a few calories.  Going in thinking you are going to eat healthy and then end up not eating healthy may leave you with unnecessary guilt.

Have Healthy Go-To Options at Restaurants You visit Frequently: again, if you are eating a one-off food for pleasure, go for it!  But if it becomes a high calorie, frequent habit, you are likely going to need to scale back on the occasions that you consume that food.  There is no reason to habitually make the same mistake over and over and over again.  Do not get me wrong, tasty food is one of the pleasures of life but when it gets in the way of the other aspects of your life (your health included) then it is time to make a change.

Eat Something Small Before Going Out, So You are Not Starving when the Bread Comes:  you have probably heard the saying, do not spoil your dinner.  Well, we recommend turning that advice on its head and spoiling your dinner, especially if you are going to be exposed to a number of high calorie options.  It is best to spoil your dinner.

Walk to the Restaurant:  walking to the restaurant probably will not help you burn too many calories, but that is not the point.  Walking to the restaurant will extend (or replace some of) the social time that you have with your friends, allowing you to be active with them and not just sitting in front of tempting food and drinks.


  • Drink water before and during the meal.
  • Use the kid’s menu, appetizers, or split meals for smaller portions.
  • Start with soup or salad.
  • Substitute a side of fries for fruits or veggies.
  • Request whole grain pasta or bread.
  • Look for cue words to find healthier options. For example, choose baked or grilled over fried or sauteed.
  • Order butter, dressing, and sauce on the side.
  • Easy on the breadbasket and skip dessert.
  • Alternate water with alcoholic beverages.
  • Leave food on your plate and save for later.

If friends are really cramping your health, consider finding new friends that are more compatible with your goals.  Continually putting yourself into tempting situations, no matter how well intentioned you are will lead to disaster.  Telling you to get new friends may seem harsh but you are who you hang out with.  We are not saying that you need to abandon them altogether but you many need to scale back on your number of eating and drinking occasions with them.