Health-Conscious Dinner Dates

Seeing someone new? Here are some tips on dining out without pigging out on your dates.

By Randy B. Hecht

t this time of year in particular, it’s not easy to be weight-conscious and maintain an active dating life. What with holiday parties, those big buffets of gooey cheeses, and invitations to have a hot cocoa with whipped cream, your diet can be in serious danger. What’s a single person to do? Don’t sit out the fun. Indulge in moderation, and try some of these new ways to handle dieting and dating at the same time.

Know that healthy fare and atmosphere can coexist. You can expand your restaurant dining options without losing your waistline, says David Hirsch, one of the founders of the Moosewood Restaurant in
What’s a single person to do? Don’t sit out the fun.
Ithaca, NY, which has been pioneering healthy eating trends for over 35 years now.

Take things lightly
Though we tend to think of certain cuisines as more romantic than others (think of a fabulous steak dinner or a hearty pasta with clam sauce), Hirsch says romance is really a function of presentation and ambiance, and with those elements in mind any meal can be made romantic. He points out, too, that meals that leave you feeling weighed down and ready for a nap aren’t exactly compatible with the night of romance you had in mind.

Try something different
Experimentation is also sexy, so being adventurous about trying new ethnic cuisines or unfamiliar spices can give new flavor to your romantic outings, too. Go out and have some sake and sashimi at a Japanese restaurant — the tastes and textures can be very sensual. Or perhaps there’s an Indian restaurant in your neighborhood where you can have grilled Tandoori chicken and listen to a sitar being played — the key is to provide a feast for all of your senses.

Pair your meal with movement
This is the perfect season to plan a date that involves a bit of physical activity to help
The right combination of flavors and tastes can make you feel decadent.
you burn off calories. How about window shopping arm-in-arm after dinner? You’ll take in the holiday displays while boosting your metabolism. And why not make a date that includes drinking hot cocoa and ice skating — another way to get physical and avoid gaining weight. Thinking creatively and looking for date options that don’t just involve sitting and feasting will help you stay slim.

Sample with style
Then there’s the classic tactic of sharing appetizers and desserts. It’s a good way to avoid overdoing it and make things romantic at the same time. And there’s no reason why you can’t carry that strategy all through your meal. “At some restaurants, the starter courses may be more intriguing than the main dishes. The main dishes are a little bit of the same old thing, but with the starter courses they were really using their imagination,” Hirsch says. If you’re tempted by several appetizers, consider sharing those; the variety of flavors in the dishes will themselves make you feel like you’ve enjoyed an indulgence.

For foodies, Hirsch says, “the exploration of flavors is what it’s all about.” The right combination of flavors and tastes can make you feel decadent, even if you’re eating food that’s actually good for you. Decadence may not be absolutely necessary in dating and romance — but it’s not a bad ingredient to use to keep things interesting! So go ahead and enjoy that candlelit dinner; it’s good for you and your love life.

Randy B. Hecht is a New York-based writer and editor.
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