I know. You’re a liberated person. You can order whatever you want. They’re going to love you, no matter what you eat. You’re more than your meal.
But wait, though. “You are what you eat” is an expression for a reason – isn’t it?
When you’re on a first date, you’re getting to know someone, and they’re getting to know you. You don’t want anything to get in the way of setting a great impression – including bad food choices.
Even if it’s not totally who we are, people buy into first impressions, including what we eat. Bad table manners or sloppy eaters could indicate other matters of messiness – and people might be quick to give up. Think back to first impressions and bad dates – we’ve all had them. Do you remember those tiny little moments of rudeness and unpleasantness? Did they push you to do something else – like decline a second date.
I like to feel comfortable. I’ll order something tasty and easy to eat, and enjoy myself on the date, instead of worrying if I have sauce on my face or dripping grease on my blouse.
Here are eight things you should never order on a first date…unless maybe, you aren’t interested in a second one!
I actually love beans – I find them delicious, but afterwards…there’s an unavoidable ending. “Excuse me.” Or the blushing that makes it obvious that you are the culprit.
Beans make you gassy – it’s a fact of life. While there are ways to reduce the gas you emit, it often requires preparation differences (which you can’t always control when eating out). Ordering beans for dinner in a restaurant might be a bad choice – especially if you are spending some time in close quarters afterwards (a car, a movie theatre, even a living room). You’ll constantly be reminded of your dinner choice – and so will your guest, which can be rather embarrassing. (This is where it helps to have a pet you can blame it on – which only works when you’re silently passing gas.)
It’s not just the gas. Your stomach might feel unsettled after the beans, and rumbling and strange noises can be uncomfortable, unpleasant, and distracting. You’re getting to know a potential partner – and you want to feel at your best. You want to be thinking about conversation, not about the noises from your abdominal region.
You dinner might make you gassy
So when browsing the menu, try to order something without beans. Certain cuisine choices have more beans than others, like Mexican and Indian, so think carefully before selecting a restaurant.
Don’t forget about “hidden” beans. Many people forget that hummus is actually made of chickpeas, and eating a lot of hummus, even though it’s been pureed, may result in quite a bit of gas. A little bit of hummus in a wrap or on a sandwich won’t cause much of a difference – but if you’re hoping things get romantic tonight, you might want to steer away from the hummus.
I love spaghetti. Any kind of pasta, really. Who doesn’t? It’s versatile, can be dressed in a variety of different ways, with sauces, different toppings, cheeses, or even as I sometimes like it when I’m feeling child-like, with just a light coating of butter.
But spaghetti is kind of hard to eat on a date. If you try to eat it with a fork, there’s a chance you’ll end up slurping. Recently, I was at a professional dinner on a business trip when I ordered angel hair pasta. It sounded delicious. Big mistake. Instead of impressing my colleagues and cohorts, I was struggling with my pasta. It’s hard to be elegant and practice good manners while eating spaghetti.
Spaghetti can make a first impression a bad impression
When spaghetti comes, you technically have three choices – but really, there’s only one choice. You can cut it, which isn’t the easiest thing to do, and even after you cut the spaghetti, it’s still not easy to eat. Or you can slurp it, which is best done when sitting at home alone. But the real winner is the twirl method, best practiced with a spoon. Swirl it around, and pick it up. You’ll drop a few, but that’s okay.
If you must have pasta (Hey, who doesn’t love carbs.), ask for a non-stringy pasta – penne, rigatoni, whatever. They’re much easier to eat, and still just as tasty. No problems, easier to eat, and little sacrifice.
6 Wings or Ribs
Yes, two very different things, but both difficult to eat on a first date.
Hand-held foods are often not an impressive meal choice on a date. You have a tendency to get messy, need lots of napkins, and it can be difficult to have a conversation when you’re constantly wiping. There’s a risk of staining your clothes with the sauces. You’re here to get to know someone else, and to share your story with them – not to be covered with barbeque sauce!
Any food that comes with a small dish of wet wipes is something to watch out for. The sauces tend to get stuck under and around your nailbeds, and the last thing you want to do, is give yourself a cuticle cleaning at your table. This might require a trip to the bathroom, for an in-depth scrubbing.
This is great for game night, but not date night
Maybe you love to eat these dishes with your friends, but don't eat them on the first date. Focus on the conversation, on learning about your date, instead of a messy, unhealthy dish that leaves an unappealing pile of dirty napkins at your side after the meal.
I love burritos. They’re one of my favorite things to eat, and I enjoy them every other week or so. There are quite a few amazing burrito places to eat around me stuffed with cheese, avocados, greens, delicious sauces, grilled veggies, beans, and so many other things. One of my main reasons for wanting to move to California is that there are so many amazing places to get burritos.
That said, burritos are one of the messiest foods imaginable. Unless you’re headed to a fancy Mexican place that puts very little in your burritos (and really, that’s no fun!), they are quite a difficult food to eat without getting messy. California-style burritos (my favorite) are overstuffed with so many delicious things.
This means it’s kind of a recipe for disaster. I generally get hot sauce everywhere, including across my face. Last time I ate a burrito, I got a giant salsa stain on my shirt (which was, of course, white). I generally ask for extra napkins before I’m even being served.
Burritos are oh so delicious, but oh so messy!
Burritos are meant to be eaten with your hands. Don’t try to eat with a fork and knife; that just creates an unappetizing mess, and who eats a burrito with a fork and knife anyway? Because of the mess factor, you’ll likely need lots of napkins, and a hand washing when done.
My friend used to say, “You don’t need a bib when you eat – you need a full-body Tyvek suit!” If you eat like this, you too should probably stay away from burritos on a date…unless, of course, your date is your toddler niece. Then you will both be exactly the same!
Likewise, avoid tacos. They’re another Mexican messy dish.
Hey, wait, there’s nothing wrong with a salad! Salads can be meals…True, but they often aren’t!
The stereotypes of the woman that orders a salad for dinner is the woman who whines, “Oh, I’m not very hungry…” I used to have a friend who admitted that she “got too nervous” to eat around the guy she was on a date with, so she would just get a salad to pick at. Don’t be this girl. Another friend once went out with a girl who only ordered a salad for dinner, claiming she wasn’t that hungry; he never went out with her again.
Many salads can be very highly caloric, even more so than other meals, but salads always have the stereotype of being for those “on a diet.” While we all know that’s not true, salads can send mixed messages to your date.
Let your date know that you're not afraid to eat
I love salad. I ate salad for lunch and dinner yesterday. But don’t just eat a little wimpy salad; get salad with some sort of protein, and maybe even a pile of some sort of grains – quinoa, couscous, wheat berries. Cheese is always good addition – it shows you love one of the best foods on the earth, and that you aren’t afraid of having some fat in your salad.
Oh, and if you do get a salad as a main, ask for a side of bread. It will be a bit more filling than just a salad.
3 Heavy and Rich Dishes
Oodles of cheese. Enchiladas dripping in sauce. Thick, delicious curries. Stews. Sloppy joe’s. Alfredo sauces.
All of these foods have a time and a place, but a first date is not the place. If you eat too much of these delicious meals, chances are, you won’t feel so great. These are heavy meals, and you might end up with a noisy stomach, struggling to digest the heavy foods.
Plus, you might have to skip dessert…one great way to really get to know someone is to get some coffees and share a chocolate torte or a piece of pie. Indulging in too many calories earlier means you probably won’t feel much like enjoying dessert, everyone’s favorite meal.
Always leave room for dessert
You’ll also feel full, maybe even bloated, and less like doing anything romantic. Think about Thanksgiving dinner: are you ready for a romantic encounter with your partner? No. You want to veg on the couch wearing something with an elastic waist. Romance is the last thing on your mind.
Save the heavy meals for nights later in the relationship, when a movie is how you’re relaxing after a meal. You don’t want to cut the night short so you can run to your toilet, or just to curl up at home alone.
2 A No-No for the Other Person
While you don’t have to always eat the same way as your partner, it’s a nice idea to begin respecting them by eating the same as them. It’s just a polite touch, and you can share, which is always sweet and romantic.
Whether someone has a gluten allergy (If it’s severe enough, you can’t even kiss them until they brush their teeth!), is vegetarian or vegan, or has an allergy to something else, it just shows you care enough to modify your meal choice to make them feel a little more comfortable. (Of course, if they have a very difficult allergy, it might be easier for the waiters if you just order something on the menu.) It’s just considerate.
When making plans, always ask about any allergies or severe dislikes. When I once suggested Italian to a date, he confessed he had an allergy to garlic, which would make it difficult to eat. We found a better option without garlic, so he could have more choices.
A perfect date is where everyone can eat from the menu
While I’m a vegetarian, my boyfriend definitely is not, and often eats meat. But on our first few dates, I was touched that he ate vegetarian. I knew he ate meat, but it touched me that he wanted to get dishes and share. He insisted that he didn’t eat meat that often, and that he’d rather share with me than eat meat. He still abides by this, and I love the sharing side of him.
While he often eats meat when we’re not together, we love to share at restaurants. If you both have different food preferences or allergies, sharing could be a challenge, so make that a long-term goal.
1 Onions and Garlic and Stinky Foods
As much as you might love onions and garlic, and other foods that have the potential to leave you with very bad breath, avoid them on a first date. It’s hard to get that taste out of your mouth, and taste anything else. Even worse, if you consume a lot of garlic, the scent will come out of your pores. (I know – it happened to me years ago.) Not exactly the most romantic scent there is.
Maybe you don’t intend on kissing on the first date – but it often happens. Even if you don’t kiss, you don’t want to be talking closely and repel your date with your heinous breath. You want to have a kissable mouth. You don’t need to taste like toothpaste (though that’s always nice), but eating something like garlic or onions will linger in your mouth for hours – even if you tote along some breath mints.
Save the breath-killing foods for after you’ve been together for a while – and then insist upon sharing them so neither of you overpower the other!
I’ll never forget years ago when a guy I liked was “in my neighborhood” getting coffee and gave me a call. We ended up going on a walk, and talking. He kissed me goodbye, and I will never forget that kiss: he had the worst breath ever. It was like he ingested an entire plate of onions before he came over. Maybe he did have coffee, but he must have eaten a plate of sautéed onions with his cappuccino. Bleh. That was also the last time I ever saw him.
All food will leave some sort of taste in your mouth (and in your date’s mouth). If you’re really worried about this, keep some mints tucked into your pocket, and share them with your date post-meal.
Just remember – if it’s a bad date, and that’s clear early on, feel free to break all the rules. A complicated dish that requires a lot of napkins and concentration will take your mind off the tedium that is your date.