A positive experience while dining out

For Karel and myself, eating out is typically reserved for special occasions and traveling.

This pic (above) was taken a few years ago when we were in Athens, GA for the Athens Twilight Crit. Campy looks so young!
Of course, we love dining out at pet-friendly restaurants. 

I have ordered a few meals in my time that did not meet my nutritional needs and I was hungry after I ate (not a good experience especially when paying for food outside the home). I have also ordered meals outside the home that did not give me a memorable experience. 

I don't stress about eating out or try to change everything on the menu so that I can order a "healthy" meal but what I don't like is when the flavors of my meal do not meet my expectations, the presentation lets me down and I am not inspired.
And I still have to pay for it. 

No chef or menu item knows what I need as a vegetarian endurance athlete and health conscious individual, on any given day or meal. 

But this doesn't mean that Karel and I don't eat out on planned occasions and really, really enjoy our meals.
If we are going to eat out, we want to enjoy a meal that leaves a positive impression in our mind and tummy. 

I do feel strongly that eating at home (or preparing meals at home) should not be a typical daily/weekly occurrence but if you have the opportunity to eat out, make it one to remember and enjoy it!

Rather than repeating from the internet and giving you a dozen tips on how to order/eat healthy meals, here are three factors that are important to me while eating out. 
Perhaps you can carry these tips with you at your next dining out experience. 

1) The flavors - 
I'm no trained chef so my creativity in the kitchen is simply based on my learned culinary skills. I love it when I have a bite of something for the first time and it's a flavor explosion in my mouth. I read a menu option and it sounds delicious but I have no idea what it will taste like when it reaches my mouth. I just love the experience of tasting new flavors. 

2) The presentation - 
It's no surprise that I love to take pictures of my food/meals. I love to capture the meal before it meets my mouth. When eating out, I have no idea how a meal will taste yet I take a picture of it before I even have the opportunity to yum over the first bite. There's something to be said about a beautiful food presentation. 

3) Inspiration - 
Karel once told me that it is rude to tell someone that a home-cooked meal tastes like restaurant quality. Of course, I think he was speaking about someone who lives outside of the US (perhaps in Europe where he grew up with 99% home-cooking for all of his life while living in Czech). When I eat out, I love trying something that I can attempt to re-create at home. Having a trained chef at a restaurant, inspire me, is exactly what I seek when eating out. There's no need to order a plain salad when I can eat/make that anytime. Instead, I order something that sounds amazing but challenges me to find a way to prepare it at home.

4) Healthy relationship with food - 
I'm not going to enjoy my eating out experience if I go into the meal starving and I am not going to enjoy my meal if I fill my belly with appetizers before a meal. And I am not going to remember my positive eating experience if I leave a restaurant stuffed and uncomfortable. I find it extremely valuable to bring a healthy relationship with food to dining out experiences because I always want food to make me feel great when I eat it and feel better after I eat it - always. Because eating out is not typical for us, I do enjoy eating foods that I don't typically eat. But this doesn't mean that I bring guilt and anxiety with these meals. I actually order with good intentions and eat with great intentions so that when I finish my meal, I can go home and continue on with my life and not feel pressure to adjust my diet the next day.