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ALGEBRAGIRL Posts: 1,925
8/1/12 9:20 A

My fall-back choice in social situations (in a restaurant, for example) is a spicy virgin mary. That's a bloody mary without the alcohol. I like it extra spicy, so I ask for that, but you can order it plain, without the peppery taste. Usually, it comes with a celery swizzle stick. It's expensive enough that you don't feel tempted to overdo it. But if you have the cash, you can indulge and it's low-cal and healthy enough to feel OK having several.

SHERYLDS Posts: 17,137
8/1/12 9:17 A

with everyone being so diet conscious these days
a game night with a potluck salad buffet would be great.
Coordinate with everyone on what to bring.

ADARKARA Posts: 2,266
8/1/12 7:52 A

I agree with Cinemaven - have a potluck! They're FUN and CHEAP! And if people bring food that doesn't work on your diet, you can just eat more of your own.

BMCOLLEY SparkPoints: (83,269)
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Posts: 3,336
8/1/12 6:23 A

I agree with Elunamakata. If they are friends they will understand. For the family, they probably look forward to buying you a healthy meal. Explain what you are doing with them as well. You really shouldn't have a problem with your father since he allows you to choose the place where you are going to eat. Today, most menus have healthy foods as a choice.


KMILLE65 Posts: 87
7/31/12 8:18 P

OUTDOORFREAK's advice is spot on. I was going to give similar advice and I am glad I read through the thread.

VLKSHA SparkPoints: (0)
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Posts: 364
7/31/12 3:58 P

Why to invite others over without food as a means for doing it?

family game night, cards, watching behind the scenes of a favorite series (Game of Thrones currently), going to the movies/play/concert, going to a sport game, going to a craft show, walking the mall together, sitting around a fire and talking, family scrap booking, sewing or other crafts, etc.

SCTK519 Posts: 2,086
7/31/12 3:33 P

I go out to coffee a lot with friends as a means to avoid going out to eat a lot. As someone else suggested you could also suggest alternative activities like bowling, ice cream, etc. You could also have your friends in to your apartment or house too and just have everyone bring a dish or if you cook, you're able to make something healthy.

SOCAL_LEE SparkPoints: (43,325)
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Posts: 246
7/31/12 2:45 P

As Go_Ren_Go pointed out, since you're a college student, you and your friends have access to lots of interesting, free/low-cost activities. Check out the lectures and talks, free movies, dance performances, art exhibits, and classical music. There are also campus clubs that put on all kinds of social events. Do you and your friends like to dance? The Ballroom Dance Club, Latin Dance Club, and HipHop Club will all give free lessons and then have dancing for 2-3 hours. Do you like sports? Maybe you don't want to go to a football or men's basketball game, but you could watch lacrosse, tennis, swimming and diving -- or join the intramural team and play yourself. Your dad might like to check out the latest student art exhibit, or go to a lecture by a world-renowned expert, and then get coffee with you and talk about what you just saw/heard. Seriously, you will never again have access to so much cool, free stuff to do in your life, so take advantage of it!

Non-college students, if you live near a college or university, lots of events are open to the public and free or cheap, so check them out.

7/31/12 2:02 P

I know what you mean, everything revolves around food it seems. Things that we do are bowling, movie night, walking around the downtown area where I live. My friend and I used to go shoe shopping - now we shoe browse, lol. Its all about conversation. Also check out if there is any festivals - they also could be free.

MICKIE27 Posts: 91
7/31/12 1:36 P

THELOVELYBIRD, I',m actually in the exact same situation as you. I'm a university student living in a different province than my family, but my dad often comes into my city for quick business trips so we usually get to spend one or two evenings together while he's here.

It used to be that the only thing we'd do each night would be to go to a restaurant. Now I try to limit that to once per trip (and he lets me pick, so when I know he's coming, I brainstorm places with healthy options - vegetarian, seafood and sushi restaurants are great!).

What helped me get past the restaurant-only problem was that I realized that my dad only gets to see my city as a tourist, but by this point, I have a local's perspective on it. So I've started taking him around the city to see my favourite bits of it that tourists normally don't have time to get to. My favourite walking trail, the nicest park, the best museums, a play in one of the theatres, movies at the regular and indie movie theatres, a bike ride on a path and outdoor skating in the winter are all things that we've done together.

It's fun for me to show my dad my adopted city, and he's told me that it's really comforting for him to see my enthusiasm and know that I'm happy where I'm living.

Play tour guide! It's awesome!

7/31/12 12:53 P

Try eating out, literally--throw together a salad or sandwich, and meet them at the local park or at the riverfront or something... That way, it's still social, you can either bring them some of what you're having or have them pick up whatever they want, and you are away from grodie menus and risky foods. Take along a big bottle of water--and as a bonus, maybe there's a place where you can walk around and talk for a bit!

I'm in a position where I can invite people over, or take food with me when I'm invited places... I know how hard a position you're in, as I've been in it recently. I hope this helps, and you can figure out a solution soon!

GO_REN_GO Posts: 28
7/31/12 12:41 P

When my husband and I were in college, we'd invite our friends over to eat something we cooked up (my husband cooks and I bake) and play board games, watch a game (my husband is a huge Cubs and Bears fan) or just hang out and catch up.

Now that we're parents, it's hard to go out (and not cheap if we need to get a babysitter!), so we have friends over for lunch or dinner and hang out at the pool in our condo complex. You could do the same thing at a local park, along with some games like horse shoes or baggo. When our family visits, we do a lot of touristy things, like go to the beach, hike a local mountain or walk around the nearby lake (all free!). When your dad drops in, you could suggest he pick up his meal from somewhere nearby and meet you at a local park for an impromptu picnic, so you can bring your own food or drink.

Recently, my sister and I started meeting up every Sunday for brunch. The last two times we went out to eat (local salad restaurant and Panera), but since we're both trying to develop healthier habits, we decided to use our annual passes to the local zoo and walk around instead! So, my son gets to see all the animals, my sister and I catch up, and we get some walking in (our zoo is really large and located in a canyon, so there's uphill and downhill walking).

You could probably do the same thing with friends, too -- check your local library to see if they have any museum passes you can "check out" (ours has them for the local children's museum, but yours may have other options). Alternately, since you're on a college campus, see if there are any cool events happening. I work at a university and there's always something inexpensive or free happening on campus, whether it's a play, art gallery showcase, concert or sporting event.

And, if your friends are sporty in any way, see if there's an intramural team they'd be interested in joining or if there's an activity they'd like to do through the rec center (our campus has a watersports facility where anyone can rent equipment, like kayaks or paddleboards, or take classes; there's also a rock climbing wall and all kinds of fitness classes).

I'd also suggest checking out activities available through your local park and rec department -- my city runs inexpensive frisbee golf courses, nature hikes through local parks, and other similar activities. Anyway, there are plenty of free or low-cost options out there, you just have to look. Have fun!

DIBRN5 SparkPoints: (10,194)
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Posts: 100
7/31/12 11:00 A

All great ideas. I need to look more into the free activities. My kids get bored. I will also bring back game and wii night. Seems like I have gotten away from simple things.

LORILEEPAGE SparkPoints: (74,925)
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7/31/12 9:58 A

pack a picnic!

COUPONREEN23 SparkPoints: (33,019)
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Posts: 289
7/31/12 7:33 A

Eat in??? LOL

7/31/12 12:04 A

Few things I'd suggest:

1. Be honest about your financial situation with your friends and family. Just tell them you're a bit tight on cash and can't afford to go to a Restaurant, at least not this week...most people totally understand if you are upfront.

2. Be honest about your dieting situation with your friends and family. If they don't know you're on a diet, they can't support you and your efforts. Be honest about how hard it is for you to go to a "normal" restaurant and, like above point, most will totally get might even inspire one or two of them to take up a weight loss challenge too.

3. Suggest meeting in a coffee shop instead of a restaurant - it's a shame the sort of cafes we have down here aren't common in most parts of the US; they are literally places you can go and have a cup of coffee or tea without the pressure to eat. Brilliant meeting spots for dieters and people on tight budgets; you still get the social atmosphere without the temptation or the high bill.

4. Do a search online for "free activities in (whatever area you live)"; you'll be amazed how many things are suggested that cost nothing. For example, there are often free concerts or performances in public parks where you can pack your own picnic...costs you nothing, you get to enjoy an outdoor setting and you choose the food and beverages you bring; great way to socialise with people and even meet new friends too.

Hope that helps a bit...!

7/30/12 11:22 P

Our local public library has lots of little rooms with large windows and such. I see people playing games, playing cards, and even a group of adult guys who get together and build lego. My kids are usually running rampant, so I don't get a chance to do something like that, but it's worth a try to see if your local library has anything like that. It's free and no one has to clean their house! They don't allow food, so you avoid the whole food issue.

Fitness Minutes: (961)
Posts: 42
7/30/12 10:28 P

My friends and i go to a zumba class, costs five dollars and we have loads of fun! (might be kind of awkward with your dad but hey you never know ;D)

XHAPPYGIRLX SparkPoints: (0)
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Posts: 205
7/30/12 10:01 P

Game night is an excellent thing to do with friends/family. Even hosting movie night at your house can be fun. One thing I have started to do, if people want to go out and eat, is... I fill up on 8 ounces of light vanilla soy milk, mixed with one scoop of protein powder and some psyllium added to the mix and drink it before going out to eat. This fills me up and makes me not want to eat at all by the time I get to a restaurant. Then I am able to just order something light like a small side salad and iced tea.

Another thing, I don't know if you have a wii or xbox with a kinect, but hosting a game night with those is a blast too and you get a workout. I love to have "Just Dance" challenge parties at my house. By the end of the night you have been sweating all night long and laughing with your friends.

THELOVELYBIRD SparkPoints: (3,422)
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Posts: 106
7/30/12 9:43 P

Card games are a fantastic idea, I never even thought of something like that.

REDDOGMOM SparkPoints: (21,454)
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Posts: 1,248
7/30/12 9:20 P

My daughter just graduated college and I know she and her friends used to have game nights and play cards and board games. Shanghai Rummy is a super fun card game, it gets better the more people that play. I agree the potluck idea sounds like a blast. Add a $1.00 redbox movie, a board game or a deck of cards and you're set.

123AMYJM SparkPoints: (13,700)
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Posts: 12
7/30/12 5:32 P

Since it's summer, a lot of towns and/or counties will have free events in the evenings or on weekends. I would check for a calendar of events at your town's tourism site. Or maybe the local library will have listing of free county events.

And if it really does come down to needing to do something with food, you could always do an outdoor game day that includes a picnic. Put emphasis on the physical activities volleyball, races, frisbee, etc instead of the food. Serve inexpensive healthy foods like Asian salad (recipe available on spark recipes), veggie kebabs, and watermelon. Or do a brown bag lunch with PBJ on wheat bread, baked chips, veggies from a veggie tray, and some fruit.

DEACONTOM SparkPoints: (55,220)
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Posts: 1,117
7/30/12 4:40 P

Cook good menu items ahead & freeze them

LCRUMLEY81 SparkPoints: (98,859)
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Posts: 871
7/30/12 4:18 P

Go to a movie, paint, take a walk, learn a new skill, play board games

AM_MORRIS87 Posts: 1,665
7/30/12 2:37 P

Instead of going out to eat, I ALWAYS recommend going for coffee. A black iced coffee has less than 10 calories. Compare that to even a healthy meal I might have eaten at a restaurant, whew forget about it. People say "Oh we should get together..." And I reply "YEAH let's go to Starbucks!" Haha.

(I am also dirt poor right now, so a $2 coffee is much kinder on my wallet as well.)

I know it's hard, but you have to just say NO to going out to eat. Unless it's truly a special occasion, it's just not worth it. And once you start saying no no no no no no no, people eventually get use to it, and stop suggesting it. Literally, nobody ever asks me to go out to dinner anymore. Once in a while I'll get invited to sushi for lunch, but that's about it.

I'm not going to recommend "Oh why don't you guys go to the gym together? Or a walk at the park! Or on a beautiful hike, or a swim at the lake!" I wouldn't want to do that, so I won't suggest it lol.

AMPROSKE1 SparkPoints: (65,348)
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Posts: 946
7/30/12 2:14 P

My friends and I do the coffee thing a lot. It is cheaper than a meal in a lot of ways! I also like the previous posts about cooking something at home or a pot luck- you could even do a themed potluck to make it fun.
Sometimes I have friends that want to go out to a restaurant and eat, and I used to way overeat when I did (especially when it came to Mexican food- I could eat 2 baskets of chips by myself if I had the chance to). Now when we go, I do as some other posters have suggested. I don't order anything and I pace myself when it comes to the chip basket etc. I also have friends that don't mind sharing so we split our orders a lot too.

MRSDISANTO SparkPoints: (2,675)
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Posts: 9
7/30/12 1:40 P

I agree with several other posters--getting together with friends for a nice walk is so much more fun than meeting at a restaurant! Though, I do understand the social thing and eating out--I do it a lot more than I should and it takes a toll on my wallet AND my waistline. BUT, I bet if you invited a friend or two for regular walks/other exercise, you'll find it's easy to come up with fun activities that allow you to catch up without meeting at a restaurant.

MARTHROID Posts: 383
7/30/12 1:16 P

I'd rather go out for coffee anytime. I usually just get a coffee with a little bit of cream (that's my splurge...the half and half). My sister usually gets a steamer (hot milk maybe with a little flavor). We go for the ambiance even more than the coffee. Biggby Coffee is my favorite, but we don't have them in the South. emoticon emoticon

7/30/12 1:06 P

TheLovelyBird, With the economy being what it is and alot of people struggling, I'm sure they would understand and go along with it.

THELOVELYBIRD SparkPoints: (3,422)
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Posts: 106
7/30/12 12:37 P

There are some really amazing suggestions in here! Potlucks are an awesome idea, and the coffee shop suggestions were brilliant. I know a lot of my friends would like that, and there's a pretty cool on here. It's also true that I don't have to order anything, I never really thought of that, but I could always just get a coffee or a drink.

7/30/12 12:35 P

For those who don't know, Souplantation is a salad buffet restaurant like Sweet Tomatoes and Souper Salad. (I've seen Souplantation in California and Sweet Tomatoes in Las Vegas). It serves a huge salad bar, bakery, soups, and desserts. We don't have Souplantation or Sweet Tomatoes in Boise though we do have a Souper Salad and when my boyfriend and I want something light and healthy, we go there.

Edited by: GINGERMACC at: 7/30/2012 (12:55)
7/30/12 12:27 P

Maybe you can meet for coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. It's less expensive than a full meal out and some coffeeshops are cozy enough to take your time and socialize. Other than that, you should just be honest with your friends and dad about your goals and financial limitations. I've done it and my friends and family understood. On a side note, sometimes, if they were adamant about going out, they would pick up the tab too.

HOLALOLA SparkPoints: (31,435)
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Posts: 280
7/30/12 12:08 P

I agree. You should tell them about your goals and financial limitations. College friends might be harder to convince but your dad should want to do what's best for your health and budget. Ask him to make plans with you in advance, if that helps your planning. Or have him pick up dinner and bring it over if he really wants restaurant food. Get the menu in advance and order the salad. It should be easier to do if you're just looking at a list and not in the restaurant surrounded by sights and smells.

Peer pressure is tough. Good luck!

KFWOHLFORD SparkPoints: (3,013)
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Posts: 729
7/30/12 12:05 P

Invite someone over and cook them a healthy version of one of your favorite dishes at a restaurant in your home!

IONICAQ SparkPoints: (17,764)
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Posts: 1,309
7/30/12 10:44 A

Try asking if they want to meet for a walk, or just meet somewhere nice to sit (like a park) and chat. Explain you don't have the money to eat out, most people are very understanding about this. If they are dead set on hitting a restaurant try going for coffee or tea instead of for a meal. If you can invite them over, just put the TV on a show or movie you like but have seen before so you can talk over top of it.

7/30/12 10:15 A

When I go out with a big group, I never get anything. I just go, and the fact that I have no money makes it easy to not order anything. When it's just one person, I usually try to offer an alternative, such as a walk, or going out for coffee... Black coffee or iced tea is healthy and cheap. Or I just tell them to come over, because I'm too cheap to pay for gas to drive anywhere. Ha.

MSUNEK Posts: 163
7/30/12 9:52 A

Invite them over for a potluck game night. That way you can make a healthy option for yourself, its social, and inexpensive... Now for your dad just enjoy your time with him and make healthy choices =)

HFAYE81 SparkPoints: (21,822)
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Posts: 287
7/30/12 9:50 A

I love ANNE007's experience! My suggestion is to eat before you go, just have something small like a side salad. Going out when you aren't hungry will make those more fattening dishes less tempting emoticon

ANNE007 Posts: 153
7/30/12 9:39 A

6 years ago I had a girlfriend ask me to join her for lunch on a Saturday. We had known each other for some time, but just in passing as we we involved in some of the same activities. I really wanted to get to know her better so it was hard not to just agree to the invitation, but something inside helped me speak up and I asked her if she'd be up for meeting for a walk in the state park nearby instead.

That started a 6 year journey of weekly exercise together! We began by meeting every Thursday evening at the same park for about an hour long walk and we progressed to meeting at the gym 3x per week and fitting in outdoor activity when the weather is really nice. Over the years we've brought each other back to fitness after health issues, a death in the family, and the general ebb and flow that goes with good habits. I owe much of my success with my health to my good friend, who is on this journey with me.

We both continue on schedule (most of the time, and that's what counts!) even when the other one is out of town, or working late, or if something else comes up.

It's well worth it to get your friends involved! Yes, people will always default to meeting at a restaurant, but that's because anyone can do it. Shake things up and see if you can get one or two people to join you!

7/30/12 8:37 A

You could always be frank and explain that you can't afford to eat out so much and make suggestions for other things to do together instead. Things such as a picnic in the park (each person bringing their own food!) Also explain that you're trying to eat healthier and while you love the food at the diner, you really shouldn't be having it.

Hopefully they are going to understand that you aren't asking them to pay for your food, and you aren't trying to limit what they are eating.

Hey, maybe you could even get some of them to join you for some walking or workout time!

7/30/12 8:20 A

cooking at home and entertaining is a great way control what is being served and what you intake

STDWYNWEN SparkPoints: (11,685)
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Posts: 577
7/30/12 7:33 A


The only time it's unacceptable to not order anything off the menu is if you go to the restaurant solo. emoticon

Go out and just get a coffee, ice tea or even water with lemon. Let them do the eating and everyone can enjoy the evening.
If the family/friends give you a hard time about not eating anything just say you're not hungry at the moment but wanted to spend time with them.
No lengthy explanations needed about finances or diet.

GLORIAMENARD SparkPoints: (0)
Fitness Minutes: (1,360)
Posts: 33
7/30/12 6:10 A

I can avoid eating out easily, because I am such a great cook. I am a Cajun and detest Cajun food at most restaurants in Dallas.

Unfortunately, most Cajun food is high in fat and calories.

BUBBLEJ1 Posts: 2,981
7/30/12 2:42 A

I have DVD nights with friends. Someone hosts, everyone brings a dish and it is cheap and you can make a healthy dish to take. No idea about the dad though.

VKLINE326 Posts: 961
7/30/12 12:09 A

Could you try bowling with friends instead? You could ask if they could meet you for a hike or a walk or meet at the pool. My friends and I love to just meet for coffee. It costs about $2.00 and it's social and fun.

CHIHAYA SparkPoints: (0)
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Posts: 434
7/29/12 11:55 P

It's an old trick but works for me all the time. Keep some healthy snacks and eat it before going to restraunt, like 20 min before. You can order whatever the smallest main dish (I usually order fish) and can focus on conversation.

CINEMAVEN Posts: 338
7/29/12 11:28 P

My son and his friends do awesome pot luck dinners once a week. The past few weeks, he's made roasted garlic appetizers, sautéed scallops and pork tenderloin in a hazelnut crust. Their rule is, you bring something that cost between $5 & $10 to make, it has to be enough for six and it has to be interesting. They all try to outdo each other and their meals make me jealous.

They all were ramen noodle cooks before they started this and now, they're all amazing cooks.

7/29/12 11:10 P

Yeah! I completely agree, girl. I am a college student too and I feel like eating out/going out is 85% of socialization these days. Lately, I have been stronger and saying that I will go to Panera Bread or Chili's because they both have very low calorie options and you can still be eating "normally" and enjoying your friends. If people want to go other places without many options unfortunately I've been having to just pass because it's not worth all of the headache of trying to figure out how to be around friends while HAVING to eat bad foods.. recommend meeting them out later for dancing! burning calories and more fun than eating! :)

Edited by: MAYBETHISTIME21 at: 7/29/2012 (23:11)
ZRIE014 Posts: 13,654
7/29/12 10:58 P

you can eat out if you take care for what you eat. i like to eat out at soup plantation because of their salads and soups. if you do not want to eat out, you can plan your meals around what is good for you to eat such as salad, vegetables, fruits and soups. just stay away from fat.

THELOVELYBIRD SparkPoints: (3,422)
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Posts: 106
7/29/12 10:30 P

Sometimes it seems like the only way to have social time with my friends and especially my family is to go out to eat. If my father's in town, he'll call me and tell me to meet him at a restaurant so we can catch up and whatnot. My friends do their best socializing over a restaurant booth in a small little diner. Unfortunately, my budget and my willpower cannot withstand the toll of eating out. I try my hardest to adhere to rules about eating out--box up half your food when you get it, find healthy options before you go out, drink lots of water, skip the cream-based sauces and soups, you name it. Unfortunately, my willpower gives out many times and, like I said, I can't afford it.

I'm running out of ideas to suggest to friends and family instead of eating out. I'd offer to cook for my family, but I don't always have the resources or time to do that when my dad gives me a call out of the blue. (I'm a broke college student, after all.) What are some things I can suggest doing besides going out to eat? We go out to eat as a social activity more than a meal option, and I want to change that in my life. It's an unhealthy behavior, you know?

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