Do you have a balanced dining out strategy?

When you live in a city like San Francisco, you tend to eat out a lot. There are thousands of restaurants with a distinctive flair and the latest food craze is constantly a topic of discussion.

Dave and I are pretty good about reserving our meals out for Friday and Saturday nights, but when we go out, we like to indulge a bit. And we’ve been to more than 150 spots in the Bay Area over the past year-and-three-quarters and enjoyed many delicious meals.

Strategy for dining out

I like to enjoy a little bit of everything when dining out. But I do have a basic strategy to keep my health and all the hard work I do during the week in the gym in check …

  • Drinks  Water. First thing. I always order a water. Then, if it’s a weekend, I’ll order wine or occasionally vodka. I usually choose a white wine like Chardonnay, but sometimes, I order a dirty martini. Most of the time, my beverage is light colored, save for the infrequent red-wine nights. You’ll never find me ordering a sugary, colorful mixed cocktail or drink, because I just don’t enjoy them.
  • Bread – I eat the bread. I like bread. The only time I ever eat white bread is when it comes from the bread basket at a restaurant, or of course, from the bread delivery guy, which is how many San Francisco restaurants bring bread to the table. It’s not going to kill me, and although it’s usually a waste of carbs and calories, I enjoy it before my meal.
  • Appetizers – I’m a big fan of appetizers, because I like to try more than just the entrees at a restaurant. That’s where you can usually have some of a restaurant’s specialty items, as well. I usually stay away from creamy dips, fried items or anything that sounds like it’s meant to be bar food. Some of my favorite appetizers are shrimp cocktail, tuna tartare, beef tartare and any sort of a veggie plate.
  • Salads – Although I love to have a side salad, I don’t always order one if I know my main entree will have plenty of veggies. My favorite kinds of side salads are of the Mediterranean variety or anything involving beets or kale.
  • Entrees  It’s pretty easy for me to pick my entree when dining out, because I always choose a grilled meat or fish with a side of veggies. Even though there are always some appealing pasta or sandwich dishes, I know I can never go wrong with a healthy cut of protein and some greens. Salmon is my top choice. Followed by trout. Followed by nearly any other kind of fish. California has excellent seafood, so I’m almost always pleased with my choice.
  • Desserts – I love dessert. I only eat decadent desserts on the weekends, and I try to limit it to once or twice a weekend at most. And I’m not one for the light desserts, such as a fruit plate or a mousse. I like to go for it. I choose items like the cheesecake or the carrot cake or the tastiest item that the server refers to as rich. This is where I splurge.

While every meal out is different, I like to keep some loose boundaries like the ones above. I may go big with the bread, wine and dessert, but I’m always going to make the healthy choice for my appetizer and main dish.

It’s all about food

Because we’re talking all about food on this Wednesday, in honor of the Peas and Crayons “What I Ate Wednesday” link-up, I’d like to share some highlights of recent meals out around this fine city. And if you want to see my full day of eating on a regular day, check out these previous editions: A full day of eating in pictures and Real food isn’t always pretty.

Restaurant eats as of late

Here’s the ginger salad and some hot house sake at Mikaku, a little sushi spot Dave and I have been frequenting on Fridays. I tend to go in my sweaty clothes after teaching BODYPUMP, so Dave keeps it casual too.

Ginger salad

Here’s the shrimp cocktail appetizer and the cajun trout entree at Hillstone on the Embarcadero. Yes, that’s a chain, but upon recommendations from friends, Dave and I tried the restaurant out last weekend. There’s a live jazz trio and no corkage fee. You can’t beat that.

Shrimp cocktail

cajun trout and spinach

Here’s the dungeness crab louis salad at Hopwater Distribution, a newer casual spot in the Nob Hill neighborhood near where we live. I’ve had this salad twice, and it’s truly satisfying.

Crab Louis

Here’s the bread (delivered via a bread guy) and the sea bass at Seven Hills, a fancy spot in the Russian Hill neighborhood. Dave and I had a nice couple’s dinner there with our friends Jess and Amanda during their visit.

Bread at Seven Hills

Sea bass

And there’s just a few shots of some healthy eats out, enjoyed in moderation. I haven’t had a noteworthy dessert as of late, so nothing to write home about in that department. These all look pretty good, don’t they?

That’s that. My long days training clients don’t leave much time for every-day-blogging, but I’ll be sure to check in again later this week.

Questions of the day

What have you been eating lately? Do you have a dining out strategy or do you just go with what moves your tastebuds?

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  1. It sounds like you have a well-rounded and balanced approach to it – that’s great! It’s probably a good thing to have a little bit of a strategy when you are constantly surrounded by so many incredible restaurants and eating establishments. I don’t particularly have a “strategy”, but like you, I do try to practice moderation while still enjoying myself. I don’t stuff myself silly, but I never deprive myself. Dessert and bread almost always happen for me because they’re my favorites, and I try to have at least one veggie included somewhere in my meal. Other than that, I don’t think about it much … just kinda go with it and see how I’m feeling. I also don’t go out to eat a ton, so when I do, I want to really just enjoy it and not think about it too much.

  2. Ahh! I need to try some of these places, especially Hopwater Distribution. I’ve been to Hillstone, we had a really great time there.

    My only rule is to not order something I could make at home. To me dining is an experience and if I’m paying good money to have someone else make my food, then I want it to be something unique I couldn’t do myself. And I am a bit judicious about the bread basket. If it’s fresh-baked, in-house made rolls or sourdough, then I’m all for it. But if it’s just bread of questionable origin or quality I’ll hold off.

    1. I totally agree and always steer clear of things I eat at home. I love the experience of having great food served to me, with no clean up!

  3. I usually try to go with whatever a place is known for or whatever is pretty balanced… protein + veggies. I usually drink water or have one or two glasses of wine. And never really get desserts or apps and I don’t eat bread, so typically I do okay!

  4. Just found your blog and love it — I’m also new(ish) to SF, and I’ve been to/live near a few places you mentioned in this post 🙂 I’m a big fitness freak too, so I’m really enjoying your foodie and workout posts!

      1. Hey Ashley! I moved from NYC with my boyfriend last year – I actually worked for Equinox in the marketing department when I was there 🙂 Now I’m at Crunch but I’ve been dying to check out Union St.! Maybe I’ll have to come by soon!

        1. Hi Lauryn, that’s so awesome you worked for Equinox. The Union Street gym is one of the best I’ve ever been in, so you’ve got to check it out! Welcome to SF!

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