I used to DREAD going out to eat because I always thought it would mess up my progress or make me suddenly gain 5 extra pounds (totally logical right? lol). I'd stress over finding out at the last minute we're going out to eat, oh - and we're getting pizza. "WHAT?! I can't eat pizza." "How can you expect me to sit there and just eat a salad?" "I'm not gonna bring my own food, that's embarrassing." If any of these thoughts have crossed your mind, and your find yourself stressing about what to eat, in fear that it will ruin your progress, I am here to give you my best tips & tricks for dining out so you're able to make healthy & mindful choices and to ease your mind a bit!
Look up the menu before you go: If you're fortunate enough to know in advance you are going to dinner one night, look up the restaurant menu online. Most restaurants now-a-days have their nutrition information available either directly on their website or through a simple google search. You can also try to find the restaurant through a food tracking app, like MyFitnessPal. But, typically if you can't find it on the web, it probably won't be on MyFitnessPal either (still worth a try though).
2. "But April, this XYZ restaurant doesn't have any nutrition information available. Now what?!" Well, take a peek at the menu and decide on what you may want to order. If you think you're going to order the salmon with mashed potatoes and a side salad, then pull up your tracking app again and start punching in those foods. It won't be exact, especially because you don't know the serving sizes, what seasonings/sauces/etc they use to cook it, etc. but you'll have an idea of how many calories that meal will be. Then, you can decide whether that meal you're thinking of getting will fit within your health and fitness goals. If not, reassess and choose something else on the menu
3. Order an entree that is balanced: What I mean by that, is try to stay away from foods that are primarily carb based, fat based or protein based. It's never a good idea to have a meal that is ONLY a source of carbs (i.e. pasta), or ONLY a source of fat (fried foods), etc... You want your meal to be as equally proportioned and balanced as possible so you can get equal amounts of carbohydrates, fats and protein. Some examples would be fried foods, pastas (especially those in heavy cream-based sauces), chips & dips, etc. Instead try to aim for lean meats, and fresh/steamed vegetables. Heck, even a burger with a side salad could be a decently balanced meal (carbs = bread, protein = beef burger or chicken, fat = also the beef burger or chicken)
4. Make up your own meal! If you can't find something on the menu that is "healthy", don't worry - just make up your own. Often times I order items a la carte and make my own meal out of it based off my personal macronutrient needs/goals for that day. Most servers and restaurants are incredibly accommodating these days with special dietary requests
5. Ask for a to-go box right away: One thing I honestly hate about most restaurants are the serving sizes. We're so used to the portions we're served, that it probably doesn't even cross your mind. But more times than not, our entree is 3-4x the amount we should eating. As your food is being brought out, ask your server for a to-go box and box half of your meal up right away. If it's put away and out of sight, you'll be a lot less likely to overeat and less likely to keep eating, simply because it's on your plate.
6. Ask for dressings/sauces/etc. to be put on the side: You would be shocked at the amount of calories you could save by simply asking for sauces, dressings, etc. to be on the side, instead of mixed in with your meals. Use the "dip" method to help control the portion(s) and amount you consume!
7. Drink extra water: No matter what you decide to order, you're going to be eating more sodium, more sugar, more of just about everything. At the end of the day, you don't know how that chicken breast was prepared that came with your salad. You don't know how much seasoning they used to spice up your fish. You don't know how much butter was used to grill your shrimp. You just don't know. Drink extra water to help flush out the extra water your body may want to hold onto from consuming extra sodium!
The most important thing I want you to keep in mind is this: one meal will NOT ruin your progress. One meal will not make you fat, just like one meal will not make you skinny. ;)