Eating Out - Enjoy Yourself & Achieve Results
I seriously love eating out. Someone plans the meal, cooks it, brings it to me and does the dishes? Um, yes please.
But eating out can quickly derail one's fitness and aesthetic goals for a variety of reasons. Read on for how to enjoy eating at your favorite restaurants while still fulfilling your fitness goals.
1) Plan for your meal in advance.
Know you're going out with a date for pizza? Craving a burrito? One trick is to program your dinner into My Fitness Pal earlier in the day, then work backwards and fill in the rest of your food around that special meal. For example, if I know I'm going to have pizza, wine and a little gelato that night, the rest of my day better be all protein, and a little carbs to stay on track. Otherwise I will be way over my fat macro and way under protein by night's end.
2) Assume everything is cooked in fat.
If you are eating out, the restaurant is using some kind of fat on the stove, whether it's the greasy burger stand or a Michelin 5-star. Ever wonder why restaurant food tastes so rich and delicious? All the fat they use. To estimate and enter your macronutrients correctly, add at least 1-2 Tbs of extra fat to the dish you are eating to account for the cooking oil. Maybe more.
3) Don't be scared of carbs.
Think about your macro goals for the day. Most people overeat fats and undereat carbs. So you want a dinner roll? Have one. Crostini are my favorite at restaurants . When eating Mexican, I never get dishes with beans, rice and tacos because the carbs in the taco are usually enough to hit my carb macro. Pick your carbs wisely to stay on track.
4) Beware the "healthy" option.
Everyone always thinks a salad is a safe bet at a restaurant but they are often loaded with fats - the dressing, cheese, some nuts, maybe a little bacon and your salad has 40g of fat.
Look at your individualized goals - if you have room for the fat in your day, go for it, but if you have 10g of fat left, choose a lean protein like fish or chicken, steamed veggies and a carb. It will be a better choice than the seemingly innocent salad.
5) Ask for what you want.
It's completely okay to ask questions of your waiter. I often ask if a dish has added sugar. You can find out portion sizes of meat at some places. Recently I ordered a cheese plate and asked for them to leave the honey off so I wasn't tempted. It's your body, you have a right to know what you are being fed. Don't eat something to be polite. Your body, your rules, your results.
6) Drink in moderation.
This applies to alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages alike. Want a glass of wine? Enjoy your Malbec then switch to water. Stay away from soda or drinks full of simple syrup. Unsweetened iced tea goes great with everything on a hot summer afternoon. Another favorite is iced espresso with a splash of half 'n half. Sparkling water is always safe. And table water costs nothing and adds nothing to your intake. Save money and your macros.
7) Estimate your intake accurately.
It's easy to think you ate 1 cup of rice when you actually ate 1.75 cups. Or was that two tablespoons of guacamole? Nope, more like 1/3 cup of guac. People tend to underestimate how much they eat and it's much easier at a restaurant to make this mistake than at home with your scale staring you in the face. (Trust me, if I didn't weight my peanut butter, my version of 1 Tbs of would be 2 Tbs every time.) If people aren't achieving results, one of the first things I look at is how much they are eating out and if they are accurately estimating their intake.
TIP: Order 1 soft taco with meat and veggies only, and a big side salad with chicken. Fajitas are a good choice, but limit to two or three tortillas depending on your carbohydrate intake. (Or take all the beans and rice home and add it to eggs, tortillas or other dishes at home over a few days.) Mexican meals are loaded with fats - guacamole, fried chips, cheese, meats cooked in oil, fried taco shells. Focus on protein, lots of fresh veggies and a reasonable amount of carbs. (And enjoy some guacamole because avocado is everything.) But remember to quick add some fats to My Fitness Pal because I guarantee that you ate more fats than you think you did.
TIP: Order a plain burger at a great place and the meat provides all the flavor you need. (Salt & Time in Austin is my favorite.) Ditch the cheese, bacon and mayo. A side salad pairs great with a burger and provides a nice mix of protein, carbs, fiber and fat. Skip the fries. In general, they will skyrocket you over your fat and carb macros. Cut the burger in half and take home the leftovers if the full burger will throw you over your daily intake goal.
TIP: Pizza is loaded with fat and carbs and has very little protein even if topped with some pepperoni or prosciutto so plan your day accordingly. Have one piece of the best pizza out there and a big salad with grilled chicken. Personally, pizza is a huge binge food for me so it's hard to just have one piece. Beware your binge triggers and avoid them in general. Your results are more satisfying than the momentary pleasure, I promise you!