Tips for Eating Out - 50/50 Fitness/Nutrition

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! 

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