Your Guide To Eating Out And Staying On Track
“Do you want to go try that snazzy new restaurant that opened up?”
“Hey! Mike and Sally invited us over to their place for dinner this Friday, you free?”
“I’ll be in town next week! Do you wanna catchup?”
How often do you find yourself in one of these situations?!
As much as I try to deny it, humans are social creatures.
We need community, and we crave belonging.
And a big part of life happens over food.
Let’s be honest, we all want an approach that also caters to our lifestyle.
And there's nothing wrong with that, in fact, it's smart.
Put it this way, if you aren’t going to stop eating out for the rest of your life, it’s important that you learn how to navigate doing so in a way that allows you to maintain your lean physique and still progress with your goals.
Know Your Goals
I want to kick things off by saying that the extent to which you can eat out and make progress is going to be completely goal dependent.
We have to accept that when we choose to eat out, we will inevitably have less control over our nutrition.
If you are at the tail end of a fat loss phase, or maybe in an aggressive mini-cut 2 weeks out from your beach vacation, every meal matters and you need to be more accurate with your tracking.
Or if you generally struggle with eating out, limiting yourself to 1-2 meals a week to practice the skills until you get a good handle is a smart move.
That said, it is completely possible to make progress while eating out, these two things are not mutually exclusive.
You just need to know what to look out for.
And after you learn and implement the strategies and methods that my clients and I use, you will knw exactly what to look for.
Let’s dive in.
BEFORE THE MEAL
Tip 1: Plan Ahead Of Time
I know how annoying cliché sayings are, but here is one that is critical when it comes to achieving your dream physique: “Fail to plan, plan to fail”.
Another one, “No one ever got results by accident”.
I hope I am getting the message across - Planning ahead is key.
The more aware and intentional you are, the better.
An easy way to apply this would be to plan for the day ahead, or better yet, plan for the week ahead.
And don't wait for tomorrow to come along to plan for it.
Plan for tomorrow, today.
What do you plan to eat for breakfast/lunch/dinner each day?
How will you hit your protein target? How much protein will you need to have at each meal to make that happen?
How many meals will you be eating out this week?
What will those meals look like? Will you be drinking?
How can you work your macros around those meals to still hit your calorie/macro goals?
Take for example you are heading to office on Wednesday for a team lunch. That’s one meal out. You could still cook your own breakfast and dinner. Maybe you know that you always rush out of the house in the morning, and don’t have time to prepare a healthy breakfast. Prepare your breakfast the night before, so you can just heat it up and go- that would take you 5 minutes tops. If you know what’s for dinner, log that in as well. You might know the restaurant you’re heading to for lunch. Look up that menu ahead of time and decide on 1-2 choices that would allow you to hit your total daily macros.
Tip 2: Eat More Lean Protein, Fibrous Veggies, And Low Fat Throughout The Day/Over The Rest Of Your Meals
If you know that you will be eating out and might find it hard to reach your protein goal for the day, pre-eat your protein.
By front-loading your protein intake, you will be filling yourself up, making you less hungry when you go out for that meal, and less likely to overeat.
There are many ways you could do this, either increasing the protein portions of your prior meals, or having a protein shake before heading out.
You also want to load up on low-calorie fibrous vegetables throughout the day. This is going to help keep you satiated and full.
Lastly, keep your prior meals as low-fat as possible.
I can assure you that meals prepared in restaurants have much higher carbohydrates and fat than the exact same meal prepared at home!
Fat, in particular, can be hidden and hard to spot (we don’t know for sure how much butter the chef put in your steak).
Tip 3: Check The Menu Ahead Of Time If you happen to know which restaurant you will be heading to, check the menu ahead of time!
There are many restaurants nowadays that also have the nutritional information of their menu items available online.
If you aren't able to find this, look for similar restaurants and reference the nutritional information you can find.
The point is to get as close as you can!
If you have any say at all in the place you are eating at, choose a restaurant where you can easily find this nutritional information, or at least which has easy-to-track foods (more on this below).
Next, decide what you will be having before reaching the restaurant. That way you are less likely to get tempted by what your friend orders. And you can make a more intentional decision. A good practice is to pre-log your meal before even reaching the restaurant.
AT THE RESTAURANT
Tip 4: Stick To Simple Customizable Meals
When it comes to picking what to eat, keep it simple.
Choose single ingredients meals that are easy to identify and track.
A 200g Sirloin steak with a side of baked potato and garden salad is far easier to deconstruct than the deep-dish Lasagna and crème brulee!
Examples of "easy-to-track" meals
Examples of "tough-to-track" meals
- Foods where they list the amount of protein on a plate (200g sirloin steak, 150g chicken thigh)
- Salads (protein + fibrous veggies + sauce on the side)
- Wraps, burgers, sandwiches (bread + protein + fibrous veggies + sauce on the side)
- Standard steakhouse meals (protein + veggies + starchy carbs)
- Opt for tomato-based pastas if you want to have pastas