[This is a repost from a few years ago – I share it so much with with my challengers that I felt it needed to be brought to the surface. Enjoy!]
One of the biggest complaints I constantly hear from my challengers is issues with restaurant dining, especially during a 10 Day Shakeology Challenge. I so often hear, “Well, I had to go out to eat so I blew it!” or remorseful stories after because they went unprepared – and it doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve repeated my advice so many times I’ve decided to put together a post with tips on how you can go out to eat and not completely erase all of your progress.
I absolutely cannot stress enough that this is life and you will have unexpected things that will come up and test you. Every day won’t be cooking at home, completely controlling every calorie that goes into your body. Restaurant eating is still a gamble because you simply cannot control how the food is made, but if you go in with some of these tricks, you’ll come out a lot happier…and your body will thank you.
•Plan Before You Go. Check out the restaurant’s online menu beforehand and take some time to decide your meal. You’ll know what you plan on eating and can alter your day prior if needed (getting in an extra workout, keeping your calories super clean to accomodate the extras later) and you’ll be less pressured when you get to the restaurant.
•Don’t Trust Calories Reported. While more and more restaurants are now reporting the calories for their meals, they’re not always accurate – and a lot of times they’re underestimated. You can use them as a guide to pick out healthier options, but unless you’re cooking at home and weighing your food, you really can’t be sure that the numbers are accurate. Online and smartphone apps like My Fitness Pal or Lose It! will help you plan your calories for the day, and a lot even have major chain meals already entered into their database. These won’t always be accurate, but you can at least get a general idea of what you’ll be eating and can plan accordingly.
•Skip The Bread. Mindlessly snacking on bread before the meal can really add up in the calorie department. If you add butter, the calories can get out of control – and that’s before the real food even gets to the table. If you enjoy bread, have a piece and then send the rest away. I sometimes like to save my bread for the meal itself, and use it as a side item that may or may not get fully eaten. To save on more calories, skip the butter and replace with olive oil instead.
•Fill Up on Salad and Soup. Start your meal with soup and salad to help you fill up with lower calories. You’ll feel more satisfied when your food comes, you’ll be less likely to overeat, and chances are you’ll be too full to even consider dessert.
•Choose Healthier Cooking Options. Avoid items that are deep-fried or cooked in a pan. Words like deep-fried, pan-fried, basted, batter-dipped, breaded, creamy, crispy, scalloped, Alfredo, au gratin, or in cream sauce add extra calories, unhealthy fats, or sodium. Instead choose menu items that are grilled, broiled, steamed or raw. These items are normally cooked without added a ton of added fats. You can ask that your meal be prepared “dry,” which means without oil or butter.
•Don’t Be Afraid to Substitute or Exclude Items. Pay attention to meal descriptions. Nix the added cheese, ask for sauces and dressings on the side. As for a double serving of veggies with your meat in place of that baked potato or white rice. If you’re getting a stir fry, ask for half the meat and double the vegetables.
•Share An Entrée. If the restaurant allows it, split your entrée for half the calories. This is a must for appetizers, too – bite size food is just too easy to mindlessly overeat (just because it’s smaller doesn’t mean the calories are any lower).
•Ask For a Smaller Portion. Even in the evenings, restaurants will sometimes accomodate the lunch time portion request. Give it a try – it’s a more manageable sized meal. Don’t be afraid to choose an appetizer as your entrée with a salad, or order items à la carte to cut back on portions.
•Take It To Go. Ask for a to-go container at the start of the meal and immediately put half of your plate into it to enjoy later (or leave it behind all together). Restaurant portions are huge and way more than you need in one sitting – sometimes there can be up to 2-1/2 portions sitting on one plate! If you’ve already enjoyed soup, salad or an appetizer, you won’t feel deprived in any way by only eating half of your meal.
•Enjoy Your Food. It sounds silly, but pay attention to what you’re eating and enjoy it. Chew your food thoroughly to help digestion and taste what you’re eating. Also, if you are eating slower you will be more aware of when you are full and less likely to overeat.
•Don’t Drink Your Calories. Skip the soda and alcoholic drinks and opt for water with lemon instead. If you’re planning on alcohol, choose wine or beer, or a cocktail made without a lot of added sugar, fruit juice or soda. If you do choose alcohol, limit your drinks to only 1 or 2.
•Share or Pass On Dessert. Portion sizing is the same for desserts – way too much on one plate for a single person. Skip dessert all together and enjoy something at home (why not try my Shakeology Hot & Cold Brownie for less than 200 calories per serving?) or share with others. My favorite at some restaurants are the mini-desserts, which allow you to indulge at a much smaller calorie total. You’ll find by sharing or getting a smaller dessert, you’ll still be just as satisfied and you’ll be happy you don’t have to worry about how those calories will affect the scale.