Guest Post: Ashley’s Guide to Dining Out

I want to start off by saying thank you to Tina for the opportunity to do a guest post! I’m a huge fan of Carrots n Cake and I feel quite honoured to be posting here. You can find my blog at http://maintenancewithashley.blogspot.com.

I’ve always been a big fan of dining out. There’s something special about going to a restaurant, ordering a meal and having it prepared by someone else, especially when the food is delicious! My first memory of eating at a restaurant was when I was about 3 years old. My father had taken me to an Italian restaurant and at the end of the meal I ordered vanilla ice cream. There were shakers of pepper and Parmesan cheese on the table so I sprinkled some parm on my ice cream thinking it would add some flavor! I’ve learned my lesson since then, and stopped using unknown condiments on my meals by about age 6. Dining out was a pretty big part of my life but when I started losing weight I cut down on the number of times I frequented restaurants pretty significantly. I try to limit myself to 1 or 2 meals out each week.

There are a number of substitutions that I’ve employed since doing Weight Watchers but now due to my food sensitivities I’ve entered a whole new realm of assertive customer behaviour. I wanted to write a list of the tips I’ve learned so far to help others to get what they want when dining out

Do your research

This is important for everyone. Whether you are watching your caloric intake (or Points), have food restrictions or sensitivities, are vegetarian or vegan etc. Knowing where you are going ahead of times means that you can scope out the menu and make a decision on what you’re able to eat ahead of time. It might seem to take away from some of the spontaneity but I think it enhances the experience! It also takes away that feeling of being overwhelmed by the gigantic menu when the restaurant is packed, your table is hungry and you need to make a decision quickly! It will also help you to…

Ask questions

Knowing what you’re going to order ahead of time means that you’ll be able to think of any questions you may have about the ingredients or how the meal is prepared. Your server is there to help you have the best dining experience possible. They should knowledgeable about the menu (or at least have access to someone else who is!) Asking specific questions about items on the menu will give you back some control over the dish and ensure that you have a pleasurable dining experience.

One of my favourite restaurants in Toronto is called Fresh. Not only do they have delightful food, but they are cognizant of people’s food needs and will make substitutions and omissions without hassle. They have labels on their menu that indicate wheat-free, yeast-free etc and also have a list of all the dishes offered with all of the ingredients listed available for patrons. Fresh has been one of my favourites for awhile, but has been a great go-to lunch/dinner choice since I started my elimination diet.

Be Assertive

Remember the old saying “the customer is always right”? Most restaurants are more than happy to help you have the best dining experience in their restaurant because they want you to tip well, come back and tell your friends! You don’t want French fries? Ask for a salad, baked potato or rice instead. Ask for your dressing to be placed on the side. Ask for your dish to be prepared without added oil or spices. No mayo, tomato or black pepper. Never be afraid to ask for what you need to make your meal enjoyable and/or safe for you. A smile goes a long way.

Show Appreciation

Be sure to tip well, go back and tell all of your friends when you have a great experience while dining out! Recognition for a job well done needs to be celebrated and applauded!

Utilizing these tips has really helped me to make dining out a lot easier for me and I’m definitely learning as I go. I recognize that not every restaurant is going to cater to my needs as well as Fresh does, but with some advance planning, confident substitution requests and a little help from my server I’ve been able to find delicious menu choices at a variety of restaurants!


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