D.I.E.T. … that four letter word we all can't stand. Well, if you have been following my principles you know by now that I am a big advocator for flexibility (within a structure) to help ensure you reach your goals while remaining sane and having a balance in life.
So this means I am A-Okay with you eating out every now and then because, well, you all need to live life right? But sometimes when it comes to eating out all of our good intentions seem to go out of the window, we overindulge no matter how well “behaved” we plan to be with our food choices.
I am the first to admit that I am not always 100% perfect with tracking my macros but what is really important is consistency over a longer period of time. So here are a few tips that will help you survive your meal outings that will ensure that you stay as consistent as possible with your food intake. Consistency is the key to success to let's get you on track!
So, how do you survive eating out without blowing your results?
If you know you are going out to dinner for an event or occasion that day or the next day then you have a few tools up your sleeve. You can research the menu in advance. Most restaurants have their menu easily accessible online. That way you can see what options they have and account for what you think you may have.
For example, if you really want the pasta dish and you have enough macros that day for pasta then that's absolutely fine you can factor that dish in. if you want a steak then you can factor the steak into your daily intake instead and opt for some vegetables on the side if you do not have many carbohydrates to eat. It's all about 'give and take', and trying to fit in that meal into your daily caloric intake.
I know that sometimes you don't always know whether you will be going out or not. But usually on a Saturday night, for example, I know there is a chance I may be going out to dinner I just don't know where. So in that case on Saturdays, I try to save extra macros/calories to play with for later in the day. I try to eat lower calorie food options earlier in the day and that way if we do go out for dinner I have anywhere from 600-1000 calories up my sleeve to pretty much order what I want to and still usually have macros left over for some frozen yoghurt.
However, if you eat too many calories earlier in the day then you will most likely go over your daily caloric intake at dinner. Try to opt for salads and protein rich meals with lots of vegetables to keep you full. It's not about starving yourself to famine before you go out, you will just need to be smart about it.
Get your training in
Even when you allow for extra calories it can still be difficult to estimate completely. So just to make sure you are putting any excess calories to good use make sure you get a training session in that day. I would recommend a resistance training session over cardio. Resistance training will actually help your body burn more calories over a 24-hour period and in case you go over your caloric intake, at least those calories will be going towards helping your body recover a little better. However, that does not mean it is an excuse to go "YOLO" on your food and eat half the menu at dinnertime. It just means that you are putting all of those calories to good use.
Choose your protein first
Most of the time when eating out, food options tend to be high in carbohydrates and fats, making it very easy to hit these macro targets. So it can be very beneficial to try to choose meal options that have higher protein content. This will not only help you hit your protein targets for the day but will help keep you a little fuller. Protein is very satiating especially when combined with some fat (which most restaurant meals contain plenty of, which will help prevent you from overindulging and eating everything in sight.
Opt for lower fat cooking options
One thing to consider when eating out is that all meals will have hidden fat sources, making the fat content creep up very easily. This is because at tastes good and all chefs will use fats like butter and oils to cook their food in. So you may think you are getting a healthy salad or vegetable based dish, however, the fat content will be much higher than you think simply from the method it has been cooked in. This goes for meat also.
Try asking for grilled/baked meats over fried, battered meats. This will help reduce the fat content right away. Also do not be afraid to ask how food is prepared and ask for it to be prepared without butter or oils if you wish. Now, if those fats fit your macros then there is no need to ask to have them removed, but if they don't then there is no harm in asking.
Fill up with sides
Depending on where you go for dinner, I find the mains are either one of two things, fricken HUGE or tiny. They usually have a small protein portion depending on where you go and an ample amount of carbohydrates always. So how do you combat this?
I always order some healthy sides such as grilled seasonal vegetables or a side salad. These will help give you some extra nutrients but also keep you a little fuller to help prevent you from overdoing it on all their foods. Unless of course, and I will say it again, you have accounted for it all in your macros, but this is a skill that even experienced macro counters can struggle with. So for the rest of you mere nutrition mortals, enjoy your food but side it up and you will prevent yourself from overindulging.
Just to give you all an example, my favorite food to eat out is Japanese and it comes with ALL the sushi carbs. I could honestly go to town on sushi I love it so much. So I still order a side of seaweed salad to start with which fills me a little to make sure I stay on track and don't go into "YOLO" mode on my sushi. Plus if I don't overdo the sushi I usually have macros left over for frozen yoghurt!
Never arrive hungrily
If you arrive at dinner absolutely starving, then this is a recipe for disaster. Tell me, how good is your will power or rational thinking when you are absolutely ravenous? Even if you are tracking your macros I doubt that you will care about any form of macro when you are dying to eat something. So an hour or two before dinner have a high protein snack. This will keep you a little fuller up until your outing and will help you make more rational and smarter food portion choices.
Here are some extra tips to help you estimate your macros in case you need them:
- A serving of cooked meat, chicken or fish is like the palm of your hand.
- A serving of green salad is like a double open-cupped hand.
- A serving of vegetables is like your fist, or about the size of a tennis ball.
- A serving of baked potato or other starch looks like a baseball.
- A serving of salad dressing or sauce is about the size of your thumb.