I'm pretty shameless about this. At first my friends thought I was crazy, but they're used to it now. A few of them have even started doing the same thing.
A few of mine would be:
- "Can I get the vegetables unseasoned?"
- "Can I replace this side with steamed veggies?"
- "Can I get it grilled instead (or broiled or steamed or whatever is most appropriate)"
- "Please don't add any salt"
- "May I have unsweetened tea?" (I'm in the South, land of sweet tea, I have to make the UNsweetened part very clear)
- "Could you put half of it in a to-go box before you bring it out?"
Sometimes I even order things that aren't on the menu. My friends and I often go to breakfast before class at a down-home-cookin kinda place. They'll get biscuits and gravy or bacon, cheesy omelets, etc. I specifically order four scrambled egg whites cooked without butter or oil and a cup of diced melon. Just because it's not on the menu doesn't mean they won't make it for me. I've done this at other places too. I'll order a lightly seasoned grilled chicken breast or fish fillet with steamed vegetables.
Anyways, I thought about this since I'm going to Olive Garden with my girl friends tonight. I've looked up nutritional info, and I'm going to order the lunch-size serving of apricot chicken with unseasoned vegetables. I'll save the calories today for a breadstick, a bowl of soup, and the entre, but I probably won't eat the whole entre.
Does anybody else shamelessly make special requests while eating out? I love eating out with friends, it's practically a hobby, so I've had to learn how to do it in a much healthier way. I'm not shy about asking for things prepared the way I want them. They can't always say yes, but more often than not they're more than happy to make the food that you want.
06-28-2010, 10:31 AM
Oh god yeah, I do it all the time. There's this amazing restaurant me and my mum go to and we basically go there for the ribs. Back when we were both, ahem, larger, we'd pig out on the main course size ribs, big bowl of fries and coleslaw. This plus a starter of potato skins and a dessert that was usually chocolate pudding.
Now, we have starter size ribs with steamed vegetables, potato skins to share and dessert with two spoons. They're used to us now, lol, so I guess that's ok.
I'm used to making weird requests anyway because of my various food intolerances - I think my strangest one was asking for chicken caesar salad without the dressing and no croutons. THAT got me a few weird looks, lol.
06-28-2010, 11:12 AM
The substitutes you make don't sound shameless to me at all. So, I guess its normal for me to do the same thing.
Actually, most the restaurants I go to have substitutes on the menu. Asking for veggies isntead of fries is very common place these days.
And, I only drink unsweet tea and most restaurants carry unsweet, so its rather common here. With all the sugar substitutes, restaurants understand that and Unsweet tea comes with a spoon in it so you can mix your own substitute in (although I dislike sweetened tea of any kind).
I like your idea of asking for no salt added or unseasoned veggies, although many restaurants tend to cook all their veggies in the same seasoning mix.
Asking for subs or special orders is very common place these days so that people with various health issues can enjoy dining out.
Today I'm going to lunch with friends to a restaurant we've been going to for over 10 yrs and we know the owner. Its a pizza shop, and usually I'll get a slice of pizza and a side salad. Its my Monday usual. Today, I might just ask for a special order and have a side salad with a grilled chicken breast. Or, since I was so good over the weekend, I might just have my pizza. :)
06-28-2010, 11:31 AM
Heh, I went to Joey's BBQ on Saturday night (my husband loves the ribs). I got the Tri tip salad with the following special requests:
Dressing on side
No big onion ring on top
They are always sweet about it and get my order perfect, every time! After my special requests, it's some lean meat, romaine, kidney beans, corn and tomatoes. I brought a container of green salsa in my purse (seriously!) and dumped that on top. It was DELICIOUS.
I always always always special order and I will send it back if it doesn't come the way I want! Restaurant food is just CRAZY high in fat/calories, rarely is there a dish on any menu I can eat just as is. I even special order the yummy low cal apricot chicken at Olive Garden (double broccoli, heh). It comes with 2 big chicken breasts - with double broccoli, I get 2 meals out of it.
06-28-2010, 11:37 AM
Not diet related, but I too found once I moved to the South that folks didn't always even hear me when I asked for "unsweet tea". So I started asking for "Yankee tea". Gives everyone a laugh and they even remember on refills.
Though my Alabama beau does cringe a bit at the reminder that he has a Yankee girlfriend.
06-28-2010, 11:53 AM
I love the "Yankee tea" idea, I'll have to try that. Its so true - I grew up in New England - we never had sweet tea. Its not even something that was offered in restaruants. I recall someone saying one time they asked for sweet tea and the waitress brought them a glass of tea and a bowl of sugar. Southerners HATE sweet tea that way.
But after living in the south I've found most places carry both sweet and unsweet and here in FL they are really used to people ordering either so its not an issue. I can say in all these years I only remember one experience in some little diner in North Carolina somewhere that the waitress told me they don't have "unsweetened" tea.
06-28-2010, 11:56 AM
In my area there are a lot, I mean A LOT of greasy spoon type restaurants. Bar/grill/fryer with not many veggies in sight. All of them have this habit of buttering and toasting the bun of any sandwich you order. The burgers are usually fairly small, but dripping in grease. I always special request my burger.
No Cheese (saves about 100 calories)
No butter on bun, (saves about 100 calories)
Please place patty between 2 paper towels and smash out extra grease (saves about another 50-100 calories)
double deluxe, meaning that they double the lettuce, pickle, onion and tomato.
Some of the owners think I'm nuts, but with all the calories I save from a little bit of fat/butter which has no staying power I can go home and have a yogurt and a big bowl of fruit as a snack and feel great.
06-28-2010, 12:09 PM
I don't find it weird at all -- I order stuff on the side, steamed, plain, whatever. I'm usually the one sharing with the kid.
Though the first time at a new place I order it how it comes so I can see where it is that it needs to adjust -- less seasoning and so on.
If it is unfixable then I don't eat there any more at all. But usually if it is a real restaurant (as opposed to a "reheating" one that does everything from frozen or prepared mixes it isn't a big deal for them to adjust for me.
What drives me crazy are kid menus. It's like it is always the ubiquitous mac and cheese, chicken nuggets or fingers, burgers, pizza, grilled cheese no matter where. She's better off splitting with me and getting real food, real veggies, and keeping her tastes broad and open.
06-28-2010, 12:13 PM
I do it all the time and I'm not ashamed of it at all. I'm watching my calories, I could care less if it's not on the menu or if it only comes with loaded mashed potatoes. I REALLY hate when I go to a restaurant and they always have weird things mixed into the food that I've never heard of or liked. So if I have to get a pasta dish with some chicken in it with no this this or that in it, so be it. Usually the waitress doesn't even care. She writes it down and goes on her merry little way. It's what YOU want and your paying for it, so why feel ashamed for making the food to your liking?
06-28-2010, 12:22 PM
When I was really serious I was ordering special requests all the time. What gets me is the cost. It costs more to eat out when you are trying to be healthy. Sure you can substitute a side salad, but fork over $2 more. Sure we will give you veggies, but they will be nooked in the microwave. It always seems like they make the healthier foods cost more.
I would take half home, but my husband and I agreed not to take home leftovers. It goes to waste anyway, either in the fridge or it is still sitting on the table at the restaurant.
Try making a special request at the Mexican restaurant. I LOVE MEXICAN FOOD! I am not giving it up either! You have to first get the server that can actually communicate with you, then it is all gravy. They make it perfectly! Grilled chicken salad with peppers and onions, salsa for dressing, a touch of sour cream and NO CHIPS! Yummy!
06-28-2010, 12:25 PM
Of course I do this and I've been pleased to learn that as long as I'm nice about it the server has no problem fulfilling the request.
06-28-2010, 01:41 PM
Around where I live, ordering off-menu means you're eating like an actor, a model or a dancer trying to "make weight." People do this fairly routinely. The servers at most of the better restaurants are used to it. They are also used to fielding questions from customers who are trying to identify any fats, carbs, dairy, nuts, non-vegan, non-raw -- you-name it.
So yes, I have been known to scan an entire menu, close it, ignore it & then ask the waiter: "What's your fish today? Okay, please grill that or poach it in a bit of broth. What's your vegetable? I'll have that, steamed, a double portion please."
I often run into more trouble from my dining companions than I do from the waitstaff.
I dine out with two kinds of friends, pretty much.
The first kind is a group of close female friends, in various combinations or solo. They consist of a serious yoga practitioner on an Ayurvedic diet, a certified personal trainer who eats low-carb, a former actress/now arts administrator who prefers organic & eats mindfully, and a Montessori teacher who bikes & skis & has, sadly, struggled with an eating disorder for 15 years now. Of this group, I remain the heaviest, despite my 100-pound weightloss. They were on the wagon long, long before I joined them. Whatever I order, they're good.
The second group consists of coworkers & another set of friends from a different part of my life. They are well-traveled, they like the "good life," and they are sometimes prone to chasing trends & "hot" restaurants. Delightful companions for theater, museum, shows & etc. Not so delightful to dine with. They consider food another form of the arts, like the performances & pieces we see together. A chef to them is an artist, a restaurant is carefully designed set for a theatrical performance. They are very troubled by my declining to partake in the chef's works. Being intelligent, good people, for the most part, & supportive of my effort to become healthier, they say nothing, but their unhappiness sort of seeps out at certain moments. They pick restaurants that I dread: artisanal pizza parlors, Momofuku Milk Bar, places famous for their gourmet takes on "comfort food." I would say that my restaurant ordering habits have caused some stress in our relationship & that I now see them less often as a result. (Which I must admit, has one small advantage in that it has saved me $$$.)