After a long week of working out, I was ready to go out for dinner Friday night with my fella.

When he asked what I wanted, I said, “Well, I feel like I’m craving chicken fingers. Or fish and chips. Greasy things.”

After a few minutes of thinking, I finally decided that what I was actually craving was fat, so we decided to channel that into a more healthy desire, and headed out for Mexican (and a big dish of guacamole!). And once I had that guacamole in front of me, visions of fried food were no longer dancing in my head.

This is one of the first times that I think I’ve really thought all the way through my cravings and desires, to figure out what I was actually craving. I’d been pretty low-fat the rest of the week, and coupled with my new exercise schedule, my body was definitely trying to tell me that I needed a few more calories. I felt as though my body and my brain were really communicating!

This is the positive side of expectation; learning what you want, trusting your body to be satisfied once you decipher the code. Expectation met.

The negative side…I saw that at dinner too, in a fellow diner. We’ll call him Difficult Vegetarian Diner. DVD was sitting next to us with his stressed out wife and his two toddlers. He looked like he had his hands full when he walked in the door, but then proceeded to pick apart the menu (and the waitress, and the entire restaurant experience) because it was somewhat challenging for the restaurant to meet his somewhat limited dining options (from what I could hear, no meat, no dairy, no flour). He ordered the babies a bowl of rice and beans, and ordered himself a vegetarian burrito, but without the wrap, the sauce, the cheese, or the sour cream. It was basically three sauteed veggies.

And folks, trust me, I’m not saying if you have a challenging diet you shouldn’t eat out. I’m just saying you should pick your restaurants more carefully.  Because the kids didn’t eat any of their dinner, mom sent hers back, and DVD barely got a chance to dig into his plate of Mexican-spiced mushrooms, because nobody else at the table was happy.

Expectations denied.

I live in fear of becoming DVD. As it becomes clearer to me what I should and shouldn’t eat, will it become more challenging for me to eat out? I have to think yes.  But I also like to think that I won’t be the kind of lady who harasses a waitress and sends her back to the kitchen multiple times to ask if the rice is vegetarian.

Have you had any surprise cravings while trying to eat healthy (like my sudden craving for chicken fingers)? How did you cope? If you have any nutritional guidelines that you’re trying to follow, is it challenging for you to go out?



  1. Erin, so glad you did a post on this! It’s been on my mind too. I feel so self-conscious when I go to certain restaurants. I hate the idea of being “high-maintenance!” I can’t wait to get into that topic more, because it’s definitely a loaded issue for healthy eaters.
    My worst cravings were for cupcakes, I think I want thsoe when I need more natural sugar or carbs. I’ve turned those cravings into a fruit smoothie and muffin obsession. After I drink a smoothie or eat a low-fat vegan I don’t dream about cupcakes anymore.

  2. As soon as you add any kind of dietary restriction, eating out becomes more challenging. The real question is: when does it become “too” challenging, or so challenging that it ruins the experience? Most of the time, you can compensate for the diet by choosing the restaurant you’re going to. For instance, the guy that is “no meat, no dairy, no flour” can safely assume that a Mexican restaurant is going to be a bad experience; a Chinese restaurant sounds like a much better choice. But if your restrictions are strict and/or involve common ingredients, there’s no way around the fact that you are going to have to ask questions.
    I have one friend who is allergic to whatever they do to most poultry. Organic chicken is fine, but he avoids chicken altogether unless he is positive that it’s organic, because it’s just not worth the risk.
    The more controlled your diet is, the harder it is to just avoid problematic foods. I have another friend who is vegan and was allergic to corn products (including corn starch and high fructose corn syrup). For her, there was no way around asking questions before ordering, but she learned what things were most likely to be okay, so she didn’t have to do as much as you might think.
    Which is to say, I think a lot of people who have bad experiences with restaurants and diets set themselves up for it. If you’re on a low-fat diet, don’t go to KFC. If you’re on a low-carb diet, don’t order a sandwich. I know there’s low-fat fried chicken and low-carb sandwiches, but don’t expect the restaurant staff to know how to cater to your request. It’s a bit like wanting sushi but going to a Mexican restaurant and trying to get them to turn the fish burrito into a sushi roll.
    The real problem is when your friends want to go to a restaurant that you know is not a good match for you. If you have advanced notice, you can eat something else first so you at least aren’t hungry. But otherwise, that’s when it sucks and you have to weigh your options (not going with your friends this time, not eating much or anything at the restaurant, or breaking your diet).

  3. Tom, thanks for the thoughtful response to this!

    I’m definitely not opposed to asking questions, especially where allergies are concerned (Kyle’s an accidental death waiting to happen in places like seafood restaurants). I think what totally put me off was this man’s demeanor; it was almost like he came in ready to be combative and annoyed with the waitress, who legitimately did everything she could to accommodate him and his family.

    It just seems like there’s got to be connection there; if you go in expecting the restaurant to be helpful and work with you, and knowing that you have limitations (with Kyle’s nut allergy, we expect that we probably won’t be able to order dessert at nicer places, but we usually ask if there are any desserts that are nut allergy friendly), I’m betting you have a better experience than this poor family did; after all of his bickering and badgering, both of the kids had meltdowns and they had to box up everything and hit the road. It was like DVD expected to have a bad time at the restaurant, and just sort of made it happen.

  4. I don’t think I saw this post before. 🙂

    Listening to what I *really* want — as opposed to whatever random craving hits — is important for me. I would get (still do sometimes) really hungry mid-morning because I wasn’t eating much for breakfast and it was often mostly just refined carbs. And then I would eat whatever snacky junk was lying around the office because I was genuinely hungry.

    So I started looking for things that provided more fiber and protein for breakfast–whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter, for instance–and also try to keep some almonds in my desk for when I still need something. Way better than that donut.

    As for eating out … I often try to steer us to restaurants where I know they have good salads, or decent grilled-chicken options, or something not totally battered and deep fried. I tried a veggie burger at one place recently but it was just a Boca burger, very dry, not even very warm. Bleh.

    But yeah, guys like DVD … should have gone somewhere else. Some restaurants just can’t cater to your every dietary whim.

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