'I don't want to eat in front of you!' she says, as our meals come to the table. Eating out for dinner with friends can be an interesting experience when your job involves nutrition. 'I can't eat this while you are here, I'll feel guilty' is another common response that I've heard many times over the years. Some people have a real fear that I am going to be analyzing their every bite and they will be overwhelmed with guilt and anguish about their choices. Some people couldn't give two hoots and tuck into their parma and chips with not a care in the word about who is watching, but apparently a percentage of the population cannot stand to eat in the presence of a dietitian, their dining experience ruined.
If you have eaten with a dietitian before you will most likely have found that he or she is more interested in perusing the menu , making their own selections and enjoying their own meal than having any concern about what you are eating. Wow, that sounds particularly selfish doesn't it? I love working as a dietitian because I love food and eating, and I am of course intrigued by what people eat and why. But if you are out for a dinner with me, you can choose whatever you like, I am certainly not going to judge you or embarrass you for the choices you make, and I most likely won't even think twice about your meal. Besides, even if you happened to choose the most fatty and sugary food on the menu, it is only one meal....which means absolutely nothing in the scheme of things. If I ate out for dinner with you three times per week and you were choosing a 3-course meal of fried entrees, creamy pastas and rich desserts every time then I may take a small mental note, but as a one off meal I am not really all that concerned.
I love eating out with my dietitian friends. I know what you are thinking, I love it because we can order quinoa with kale and a side of lettuce, but this couldn't be further from the truth. I love eating out with dietitians because we can eat out without being judged. It works both ways. People may worry about what dietitians think about their choices, but dietitians often experience far from positive feedback on their choices along the lines of 'You shouldn't be eating that, should you?' or 'I didn't think you would eat that?' or the worst one 'Of course you would order the salad!!". Eating with other dietitians means you can choose the healthier option if you want to, or not, with no comments, disappointments or stereotyping. Dietitians love to share different dishes to try new things, so eating with them is fun. FYI contrary to popular belief, dietitians love buffets, so many amazing foods to try! Although I must admit that the behaviour of a dietitian at a buffet may be slightly different to the image of an overweight person at a budget US All-You-Can-Eat style establishment.
So, do dietitians eat dessert? Personally, I am someone who reads the dessert menu first and then I choose my main meal accordingly. If I like the look of something for dessert, I don't want be too full from my main and not be able to choose dessert IF I FEEL LIKE IT. The 'if' is the key word there, and important to consider when you are eating any meal and thinking about whether you need seconds or another course. Remember, if you see a dietitian choosing a lighter style meal like a chicken salad for main, don't be fooled, it may mean they are saving room for dessert. Although to be honest, with the serving sizes of meals in many restaurants these days it is not unusual to feel too full from the main to want a dessert. This is where I could launch into a discussion about mindful eating, but Dr Rick Kausman already does a pretty good job of that. Hunger awareness and consideration of whether or not you really want or need that extra serve is something worth working on.
Sometimes I feel like dessert, sometimes I don't (and sometimes I just don't feel like paying $14 for a slice of cake). If I decline dessert, I admit that I do have that annoying female habit of asking for 'just one bite' of someone else's dessert, and this often surfaces during the food envy stage when other desserts come out. My favourite desserts when eating out don't quite fit the image at the start of this post, ie. fruit salad. It is also important to declare that I am not eating out overly frequently, which impacts on my likely intake and choices, but when it is an option I love a fresh lemon tart (that is quite 'tart'), a basic cheesecake (no fruit purees or salted caramel please) or sticky date pudding with ice-cream, not cream, (or if available just a small piece of caramel slice). I often go halves. A fair percentage of the enjoyment of food is in those first few bites, and I think that's why my dietitian friends love to share different dishes.....you can get a whole range of food experiences and enjoyment without necessarily over-doing the portions. On a side note, it's so interesting that the more you pay for a meal the less you get.....probably better for your health to fine dine infrequently than go for a cheaper pub meal every week.
So relax and enjoy eating out with a dietitian, and if you feel like sharing a dessert with someone, ask the dietitian, they just could be the one at the table most likely to help you out. Or if you order a whole one, move away from the dietitian as they are probably the most likely to try and steal a spoonful.
* Note - these views are based on my personal experiences, I cannot speak for the views of all dietitians, but I can comment about what I know about my dietitian friends. I welcome comments if other dietitians feel differently.