Eating out. It’s religion for some and an enjoyable pastime for all. Let’s be real. We all love to do it. Tasty, convenient, fun, and a break from the standard, day-to-day routine. Even though it’s a lot of fun, eating out doesn’t always help us reach our nutrition goals. Restaurant foods can be much higher in fat, salt, and other additives that we wouldn’t normally add to our home cooked meals [source]. And don’t even get me started on restaurant portion sizes.
But guess what? As a personal trainer and nutrition coach, I plan on eating out around once a week, even when I am working on fat loss goals.
When reading most of the personal trainer/nutrition coach perspectives out there, eating out often becomes the devil. But I’ve actually found a way to eat out, enjoy life, AND still get results. Oh and I’m sharing it with you.
For all of 2016, I spent my time commuting between California and Texas. Always on the go and rarely feeling settled, I turned to restaurant options more often than I’d like to admit. Even though I was “eating well” most of the time, I was over-indulging (hello wine 7 nights a week) and paying the price. At first, I definitely noticed changes in my energy levels, body composition, and mindset.
But, after tons of trial and error, I’ve come up with three simple steps to guide my restaurant eating.
3 steps to eat out without breaking the calorie bank
1) Break down every menu into components.
When we look at menus, we can often feel overwhelmed. There are so many items and none of them look like our meal plans. Instead of shaking our heads, calling it a wash, and ordering a “cheat meal,” start dissecting that menu. Figure out what’s listed and narrow it down to the healthier options.
If I’m struggling, I start by looking in the salad and entree sections. Usually, I can find some sort of salad with grilled chicken, and I’ll use that as a starting point, doctoring it up to my tastes.
A couple suggestions to get start right now:
- Pick proteins that are baked or roasted. This gives good flavor without tons of fat.
- If you’re a vegetarian, make sure your item has a protein source.
- Choose carbs based on your goals. If you’re aiming for fat loss, ask for a double serving of veggies and skip that potato.
2) Choose protein and veggies that’ll satisfy you
3) CHOOSE every indulgence
For those of us with disordered eating backgrounds, indulgence is tough. We either feel like we should restrict or count every bite that goes into our mouths or we’re indulging at full speed. This always made me afraid of indulging at all, because I felt like I couldn’t stop. And when I did indulge? I felt insanely guilty later. I thought I had to feel guilty or restrictive; those were the only two options. If you are sick of feeling guilty or restrictive when eating, my #ConsistentNutrition Cheatsheet will help you navigate the middle between guilt and restriction. Grab your copy now.
I created my conscious indulgence framework to specifically guide our indulgences. It makes indulgence part of every single day–without going overboard. So, when I walk into a restaurant, I’ve already consciously chosen how I’ll splurge. This gives me the willpower to pick healthier options to fill the rest of my plate. Win, win, and win(e). Show me what YOU choose to indulge in with #myconsciousindulgence. I’ll be posting throughout the week on the topic so don’t miss out.
I talk with women all the time who are struggling to stay consistent with their nutrition, especially when eating out. They know what they “should” eat but they can’t seem to implement it when outside of their normal routine. They either restrict themselves and feel super deprived or they get overwhelmed by all the “shoulds” and eat whatever they want, leaving them feeling lots of guilt.
I’ve been there. For years, I went out to dinner or happy hours only to order the lowest calorie option. I’d crave something tasty but knew I *should* order something light, so I ordered grilled chicken with roasted vegetables. I’d feel pretty good about myself…until appetizers came. Sweet potato fries, meatballs, and bread with pesto dipping sauce would fill the table. I’d try resisting…for about five minutes. Eventually, I’d always give in, indulging in fries, meatballs, bread, and lots of wine. Even though I knew what I should do, I couldn’t. I was too bored by my choices to stick with them, so I went overboard and felt super guilty afterwards.
Consistency with nutrition is hard. We often know what we need to do but implementing it is another story. There are days when we’re really good and days when everything is off. Sometimes nutrition is effortless, but other times, it gets so overwhelming or we get sick of making decisions, so we end up overindulging and feeling guilty later. When these things happen, we feel like there’s no middle ground between restriction and guilt.
But there is.
With lots of experimentation, I found a way to cut to the middle between deprivation and guilt. That’s why I created my #ConsistentNutrition Cheatsheet to help all of us implement the things we know we should do with our nutrition. There are no crazy meal plans or calorie counts, just the handful things you need to implement daily to eat moderately and find that middle between restriction and guilt.
Do you enjoy eating out?