The biggest secret to eating healthy when you’re out

Believe it or not, it’s pretty simple: Eliminate choices.

Some people hear that and freak out. They hear a “no” and demand their freedom back, but the irony is that eliminating choices is actually freedom.

Hear me out. When you’re hungry, how hard is it to decide on a restaurant? What about a meal? And how long does it take to pick a restaurant when going out with co-workers and friends? Be sure to factor in the back and forth texts and emails of “where do you want to go”, “how about X”, “what are you going to get”. 

It’s a lot. And it’s exhausting. It takes up so much of your time and mental capacity to debate, pick, and then choose the restaurant – let alone what you’re going to get at it. But, if you eliminate choices, you get your time and energy back (and you get to be the hero who has a plan because who doesn’t love the person that finally decides on the restaurant).

And for all you needing more than anecdotal evidence to prove this strategy works, here you go: Study after study has shown that when individuals have a small set to choose from, they are more likely to make decisions that serve their best interests. In fact, one recent study found that, when restricted to just four choices, their subjects were 50 percent more likely to make the best choice for themselves.

So, yea, the less decision we have to make, the better choices we make. That means, if you’re looking to get healthier, eliminating choices is the best method to eating healthy when you’re out. If you’re wondering what this looks like in real life, it can be pretty simple. I recommend choose three healthy meals at three different restaurants as your go-to options.

One of my three meals from Garden Table

One of my three meals from Garden Table

For those of you skeptical of this method, I’m telling you it works. I do it all the time. When someone wants to go to lunch during the work week or I need to pick something up in a hurry, I choose the meal I want from one of three restaurants and go there. The servers make fun of me from time to time, but I always know I’m doing what’s best for me and my body.

And to those of you still saying, “…but I love allllll the choices”. Be real with yourself. You order the same thing at Chipotle or [insert your favorite restaurant] almost every time you go. So, stop fighting ease and freedom, and pick up three things from three restaurants that can serve as your go-to meals when out. You’ll get your time back and get to use that mental energy you conserved on something more important – like work or family or your side hustle.

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Erica Ballard