Tips for Eating Out

It should be no secret that going out to eat can completely derail an otherwise successful fitness plan. Let’s face it, restaurants want food to taste good… fat tastes good, is cheap, and can be hidden very easily. Why would any restaurant, for example, use high quality, expensive, tough, lean meats? Especially when their counterparts are juicy, more flavorful, and much cheaper. Chain restaurants are the worst culprit. As an exercise, take a look at the nutritional facts of the chain restaurant you frequent most. They can typically be found right on the website. Try and find an item that you have eaten or pretend like you just sat down and are getting ready to order. Pick a few items and then see how you did.

Today, we’re at T.G.I Fridays, and you order a pecan crusted chicken salad. 1,360 calories later, you may be holding the dessert! 

Save some trouble:

  • Ask for fat free or low-fat dressings
  • Choose oil bases instead of cream.
  • Ask for it on the side! Then use only as much as you need.

Okay, maybe you didn’t choose Fridays. Maybe you chose Panera Breads. You are debating ordering one of their signature sandwiches. Unfortunately, not one of the delicious sandwiches hits the mark at less than 700 calories and 30 grams of fat. Go for the ‘you pick two’ option and you just bought yourself an extra 100-200 calories (on average) and a day’s worth of fat.

There are so many deceptions out there, making it virtually impossible for us to make good choices. The best advice is to ask questions and come prepared. Know where you’re going and try and take a look at the menu ahead of time. Do a little research and see what you can find by comparison. Finally, take a look at these guidelines to help ward off unnecessary calories and stay on track:

  • Start with water, low fat milk, unsweetened coffee or tea, or other unsweetened drinks. Stay away from all soft drinks!
  • Ask for whole wheat bread and wraps. Try not to be too tempted by the pre-meal bread/rolls that you get at most places. These can be dangerous!
  • Start off with a small salad loaded with veggies. This will help you to feel satisfied much sooner when it comes time to dig in to the main course.
  • Steamed, grilled, baked or broiled. Not deep fried, pan fried, or sautéed.
  • Order an appetizer or a side dish or two instead of a meal.
  • Share a dish with a friend. Sometimes you can find quality meats for a price. This is the perfect time to split!
  • When your food is brought to the table, ask for a to-go box or set half aside right away so you aren’t tempted. Eat it for lunch the next day.
  • Order foods with light oil/vegetable based sauces, not creamy gravies.
  • Avoid adding butter and excess condiments to your food.
  • While travelling, commuting to and from work, and going on shopping trips, pack some fresh fruit, cut-up vegetables, low-fat string cheese sticks, unsalted nuts, or fiber/protein bars to help reduce the urge to stop for a sweet/fatty treat.

Practice using these tips–even a couple at a time–and they will eventually become second nature to you. Don’t deprive yourself of going out; just don’t sabotage your health while enjoying time with friends and family! 

Food Journaling

Food journaling is a critical component to weight management.  Documenting what you eat throughout the day makes you more accountable for the choices you make. The simple action of tracking your food intake is a constant reminder that you are choosing to pay attention to your health and well-being. In time, you’ll start to understand where your calories are coming from and the nutritional balance of your meals and snacks. This knowledge will make it easier to make the necessary changes to your diet and lifestyle. Then, if your stomach is upset, you feel unusually tired or sluggish, bloated, unsatisfied, etc., you can look back and see which foods made you feel this way.

Directions: Journal everything including water. Make sure to note portion sizes and calories if this information is readily available. You can include any comments or questions next to the “time” column.

 Did you know? A study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that dieters who kept food journals six days a week lost twice as much weight as those who kept food journals only one day per week!

Physical Assessments: calculating body fat

As a trainer, one of the most common questions you hear is “how do I know how much muscle I am gaining when I am working out to lose weight?”. Building muscle and losing fat; it can be a confusing concept, especially when the numbers on the scale aren’t showing what you’d like. Sure, you’d like to believe that any fat loss was off set by an increase in lean muscle but how do you know if that’s really the case?

When initiating a new program, it’s important to take multiple physical assessments to determine a solid baseline from which you can progress. Sometimes, weight just isn’t enough. There are too many factors that can lead to strange fluctuations in your total body weight. Water is a big one. Take the time to snap a few pictures (post them on the site if you’d like!), take body circumferences, or best of all… test your body fat.

Very few like to do it, yet almost everyone gets frustrated with the scale. It’s really a simple process. Using a skinfold caliper, I can measure and calculate your body fat in about ten minutes or less. When you’re done, you’re left with a percentage of total body fat. Multiply this by your weight and we can calculate how many pounds of body fat you have. The remainder will be your fat free mass. From here, we can monitor how your fat to muscle ratio is changing and we can determine how much fat you are losing/have lost at any given point along the way.

The following are a couple of charts that can be used to assess overall progress…

Fat Loss Rates

Excellent: .5-1% loss every 2-4 weeks

Average: .5% loss every 4 weeks

Poor: less than .5% every 4 weeks

Muscle Gain 

Excellent: 1-2 lbs. every 2-4 weeks

Average: 1 lb. every 4 weeks

Poor: less than 1 lb. every 4 weeks

Before you get started in any fitness program, set up a consultation for some fitness tests and measurements. In a few weeks, you’ll be glad you did!

Protein Shakes After a Workout

Protein shakes are often associated with bodybuilding and elite athletes. The reality is that most people don’t consume nearly enough protein or carbohydrate, if at all, after a strenuous workout. There is so much confusion surrounding the question of whether or not to “eat back” exercise calories. In the grand scheme of things, you want to be able to utilize physical activity to create a deficit conducive to a healthy, consistent weight loss. You shouldn’t necessarily consume more because you exercised, but you should consume smart.

After a workout, your body is broken down and depleted of many essential nutrients. The two that require the most attention after any type of prolonged or strenuous physical activity are carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates are our primary source of energy before we get into our fat stores. They drive all of the internal processes that allow us to function and perform on a daily basis. Proteins or amino acids make up the tools necessary to respond, repair, and adapt. They’re used as a building block for muscle tissue. The two go hand in hand. Your body needs the carbs for energy to repair your damaged muscles and the protein to carry out the repairs. If you want to get stronger, boost your metabolism, and generally feel less fatigued, it’s extremely important that you consume both within 30 minutes. This can be a challenge. Whole food choices like your meats, grains, nuts, etc. take far too long to break down. Any added fats will slow down the process even more (fats are metabolized very slowly). On the other hand, protein shakes are already in liquid form and are therefore metabolized and utilized more readily. Many protein powders actually already contain an optimal ratio of carbs to protein.

If you don’t take in the fuel you need to replenish your depleted energy stores, your body can actually begin to break down muscle tissue in order to make more carbohydrates. This can be extremely debilitating and frustrating over time.

I wish there was a simple equation that could tell you how many calories to consume based on the intensity level and overall burn of your workout. In a way, it doesn’t matter as much as you would think. Immediately following a workout, your body is in an extremely anabolic state. This means that you’re burning significantly more calories than you would at normal resting times. It can be scary to workout, see a large burn, and then seemingly take away some of your hard work. Rest assured, it doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t always boil down to the numbers. If it was all numbers all the time, it would be much easier to lose the weight! Protein shakes are your friend. Like anything else, consume in moderation!

Changing the way you eat…you can do it too!

Everyone’s conception of what it means to be healthy is slightly different. The first step in making an effective dietary change is to assess the situation. What are you missing? Are you actually looking at the big picture? it’s one thing to eat healthy, ‘low calorie’ foods. But are they the right ones? How do you know? You look at the ingredients. You learn how to read a food label. You begin to identify key words, vital nutrients, and differentiate the good choices from the bad. If you don’t know what something is, look it up! How else will you learn?

Take a look at this diary

What do you see? 

  1. Protein and fiber in every meal
  2. 22 entries for just 1,200 calories. That’s roughly 55 calories per item!
  3. 95% of the foods are all-natural, untouched.
  4. There are no excess calories to speak of. The largest meal is breakfast at 325.
  5. Every one of those meals/snacks could be prepared in under 5 minutes.

How does your diary stack up? Don’t over-complicate things. Take the time to assess the situation and identify simple substitutions to help eliminate those overly processed foods. Work to create a balance throughout the day. Start heavy and end light. Look for protein & fiber (natural) when you can. Finally, hit all of your major food groups! Simple is best… but only when you aren’t eating your meals out of a BOX!

Creating an effective balance by eating fruits & vegetables

This journal entry stemmed from a conversation about making effective dietary changes without placing too many limits. For a lot of people, the problems arise when their are disruptions in the normal day. Sometimes, it just takes an hour or two to sit down, identify potential inconsistencies and work around them. By keeping protein sources and snacks with you at all times, you can prevent long lapses in your day and intense bouts of hunger, all while keeping your calorie count down. If you’re hungry, EAT! …but only if you’ve worked on a plan and have developed some sense of control.

I counted somewhere near 20 fruits and veges on here! Every little bit counts, it can be done!

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Lots of substance!

See how much you can actually eat without breaking the bank! Notice the nice blend of simple and complex carbohydrates in the morning, along with some much needed protein. *Ignore the miscalculation on the first item!

Next, check out the portion control. It’s extreme and somewhat intimidating, but it’s effective. This individual took the time to input each and every food item very meticulously. This shows commitment, dedication, and the ability to take the knowledge and (hopefully) begin to make a direct and personal application of that knowledge. The most successful individuals are those who begin to take this experience to the next level. Only we know what’s happening in our bodies – how we feel, how we’re responding to certain foods, etc. Only we can draw these connections. If we don’t learn and begin to take ownership, we can never truly be successful.

Finally, take a look at the creativity. What about that day screams DIET to you?

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