Anyone who’s ever tried to lose weight knows that the most challenging part of the process is nutrition: what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat can represent very daunting propositions. Although ideal, making all your food at home and packing all of your lunches isn’t going to happen 100% of the time. Fear not! Let’s eliminate the guilt of eating out and keep you on track with these 5 easy tips!
1) Give yourself permission to eat out. It’s unrealistic to think you won’t eat out at all. That’s an “all or nothing” type of goal that you should try to avoid. The reality is that eating out is a great social activity and sometimes a necessity during a hectic day. Accept that you will eat out as a part of your lifestyle and use tips 2-5 to manage the situation properly. Having a realistic mindset will lead to less stress, and that’s always a good thing!
2) Whenever possible, have a game plan going in. This applies primarily to situations that are planned and expected – you know where you’re going and when (for example, a weekly dinner with your spouse). In these situations, you can go to the restaurant’s website and look at its menu, trying to identify the lowest calorie options (salads with fat free dressing, non-breaded chicken, etc.), and make your meal selection prior to actually getting to the restaurant. If available, look at the calorie values for the various meals on the menu – this will help you narrow your choices.
3) Reduce portions. Even if you select the “healthiest” option on the menu, it still will likely be in excess of 1500-2000 calories once you add in any “side” items. Calorie values for “sides” can be almost double those of entrées for some unhealthier options. Reducing portion size by 50-75% cuts calories enough to make eating out while losing weight a viable option. Practically speaking, the best way to reduce your portion size is to literally cut everything on your plate in half and have the rest boxed up.
4) Be a pain in the butt when ordering. This tip applies at any fast food or sit-down restaurant. Let them know you want the mayo held, the dressing on the side, your vegetables cooked without oil or butter, and so on. When you order, insist upon anything you can think of to make your meal healthier. In our increasingly health conscious society, such requests are much more commonplace than you might think, and restaurants are usually more than happy to accommodate your request. Make sure you’re courteous with your requests though, I think you know why 😉
5) Take a step back and think. OK, tip 2 is great, but eating out often occurs on a whim – when your friends decide to go out; you have to stop for lunch, or a last minute business dinner is scheduled, for example. Whatever the case might be, you don’t always have time to plan ahead. In these situations, before you order, take a step back and ask yourself, “What’s the best choice I can make right now given my weight loss goals?” The mere act of stopping yourself and thinking before you order is generally enough. This tip is all about mindfulness and you’ll find it applies to pretty much everything!
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Thanks for reading!
Michael Stack, CEO and Exercise Physiologist