Whether it’s the first date or the fourth, sharing a meal is part of the “getting to know you” process. Deciding what to order can bring up some anxiety, though — and not just because you don’t want to get spinach stuck in your teeth. If you’re following a healthy eating plan, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and agree to share a fried-food-fest with your date. Or you may not want to necessarily advertise that you’re watching what you eat.
First off, you should never feel the need to apologize for or explain your food choices on a date with someone new. If they’re the right person for you, they won’t care whether you order fries or a salad. Someone who feels the need to provide unsolicited commentary on what you’re eating is not the right person.
Instead, confidently order what you want — no explanation required. What you should bring up: allergies and intolerances. Your tree nut allergy or celiac disease is an important part of your health.
Above all, try your best to relax and focus on having a conversation and learning about this (hopefully) cool new person.
Bar Snacks and Tapas
If you’re making a meal of bar bites, split a few things with your date. Go for something with non-starchy veggies such as a simple salad, shisito peppers, or a dish with roasted or grilled veggies. Choose a protein that’s broiled, baked, grilled, or roasted, such as chicken skewers with dipping sauce or grilled octopus. Go slow with breaded or fried items like buffalo wings or calamari. If your date wants to split something more indulgent like flatbread or macaroni and cheese, go ahead and enjoy a taste, but don’t feel you need to match them bite for bite.
Mixed drinks will likely have more calories, so keep it simple with a glass of wine, a beer, or a simple cocktail like vodka or gin with club soda and lots of lime. Also, be wary of all-you-can-drink brunch specials or other promotions that involve constant refills. Aside from making it hard to keep track of calories from alcohol, it’s easier to get drunk without realizing it. The tip to drink water or club soda between alcoholic beverages is a cliché for a reason — it helps you pace yourself and stay hydrated to stave off a next-day hangover.
Starting with a mixed greens salad with a non-creamy dressing such as a vinaigrette is a great way to fill up on fiber-rich vegetables without going overboard. Not feeling salad? Try a broth-based soup or lean protein like shrimp cocktail or oysters.
Carb-heavy entrees like taco platters, oversize sandwiches, and pasta dishes often provide portions far beyond what you need in a single meal. Pick a protein such as lean beef, poultry, or fish with a side of vegetables. If you feel comfortable asking for sauce on the side or for the kitchen to hold the potatoes or the burger bun, go right ahead, but also know you have the option of simply not eating what you don’t want to eat. There’s no clean-plate rule. Again, don’t feel the need to eat the same amount of food your date is eating. Put down your fork between bites and listen to your body’s cues to tell you when you’re satisfied.
Splitting dessert is an easy way to cut calories while also saying, “I trust you enough to share germs with you.” A win-win situation.