Now more than ever, restaurants are making it easy to make smart decisions and find good options for foods. Whether it’s treating yourself to a dinner out on occasion or your busy lifestyle means a lot of meals at restaurants, you don’t have to put your weight loss and performance goals on the back burner. Check out these tips for eating out without having to sacrifice all your hard work:
Do Some Research
Pick out your meal before you ever step foot in the restaurant. Most restaurants, especially chains, have their full menu on their website. Some even have full nutrition information. This will allow you to make a conscious decision about where you want to go and what you will order when you’re not overly hungry sitting at the table.
Make a Plan
Is the restaurant you’re going to known for an incredible dessert or special dish you want to make sure you try? That’s ok, order it and enjoy! Decide on a main dish that consists of lean protein and lots of vegetables and consider sharing the treat with the table.
Drink Some Water
As soon as you sit down at the table drink a glass of water. Continue drinking plenty of water throughout the meal. Stay away from sugary drinks like soda, lemonade, margaritas, etc. that are packed with empty calories. If you choose to have an alcoholic beverage, stick with wine, a light beer, or vodka with soda water. Have just one drink or alternate between a beverage and water.
Skip the Bread
Avoid consuming extra calories on the free bread or chips and salsa that comes out before the meal. Either tell your server you don’t want it before it comes or move the basket out of arm’s reach.
Remember the Basics
Use the plate method! When deciding what to order, don’t forget this important fundamental: 1/2 plate vegetables, 1/4 lean protein, 1/4 starch. When your meal comes, eat the veggies first, then protein, and finally the starch.
Don’t Get Saucy
Ask for sauces and dressings on the side. These can pack a ton of extra fat, sugar, and calories without you even noticing. This will allow you to add only what you need your salad or main dish and avoid the excess.
Eat Your Veggies
Substitute extra veggies! Most restaurants will allow you to add in extra vegetables in the place of pasta, mashed potatoes, or other high calorie carb sides. Also, ask how the vegetables are prepared and it’s ok to request for them to skip the oil or butter they are made with.
Control the Portions
Think ahead! Portion sizes (especially at dinner) can be enormous. When your food arrives, ask for a to-go container and separate a portion for later. You can also split a meal with someone you are with or ask for the lunch portion.
This is a good reminder any time you eat a meal. It takes about 15 minutes for the food we eat to get down to our stomachs and send a signal to our brain that things are filling up. Slow down and enjoy the flavors of the food, fully chew your bites, and stop BEFORE you feel full.
Eating out doesn’t have to be only about the food! Appreciate the time with people you are with and enjoy yourself. Remember the basics and know it is ALWAYS about consistently choosing a few better options, not being perfect 100% of the time!
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About the Author
Karen Hazelton is Precision Nutrition Level One Certified and a Healthy Steps Nutrition Coach. Her sports background is in tennis, and through hard work and dedication she earned a Division One tennis scholarship to University of Northern Colorado. An important component of her training was developing strength in the weight room. Being physically strong and having a good foundation of metabolic conditioning was essential to playing her best on the court. After earning a degree in mathematics, she moved back to her hometown of Tucson and became a high school math teacher.
Karen loved her work as a teacher, but after taking time out of the classroom to raise her two young kids, she realized how she missed coaching and working with athletes. That led her to obtain her training and nutrition certifications. She loves to see clients use fitness and nutrition to become stronger, happier, and healthier versions of themselves.