Eating out is something we can’t avoid, it is a huge part of our lives. This is one of the reasons why I believe that being on a diet that requires you to eat chicken, sweet potatoes, and broccoli out of a tupperware container every three hours isn’t sustainable. Trust me when I say that this kind of approach isn’t going to work. Do you really think you will be able to stick to the same diet/meal plan for the rest of your life?
I know a lot of people that are afraid of going to a restaurant because they think they are cheating on their diet and that they will not make progress. I was one of them. But let me tell you something; eating out is totally doable regardless of whether you are trying to lose fat, maintain your current weight, or gain muscle.
That being said, common sense is a MUST when eating out. If you are consuming around 1600 calories at the moment (just an example), going to an all you can eat buffet isn’t probably the best way to go for restaurant choice.
When I have to eat out or choose to eat out, there are a couple things I consider:
I try to choose the place to eat (if possible). If the place has been chosen, I look up the menu and figure out what I want to eat and what fit my macros.
Estimating and tracking when eating out it’s easier than what it seems!
Just look up the menu. It is so easy to figure out the macronutrients/calories of what you want to eat before you get there. A lot of restaurants/coffee shops provide their nutritional information (some of them even let you customize your order online) Example: Chipotle, Blaze Pizza, Panera, Qdoba, Froyo, etc. Then, plan your other meals for the day around this. If you do this, you can make sure you don’t go over your target.
Learn how to estimate. If you plan on having steak, black beans, rice, and vegetables you can choose a “black beans” entry in myfitnesspal or mymacros and log it. Same with the rice, veggies, and the steak. Don’t overcomplicate the process. There are tons of online resources to figure out how many calories (roughly) are going to be in your meal.
Like I said before, common sense is a must. 100 calories for 4 ounces of steak? Probably not. Steak has a lot of protein, and some are pretty high in fat. On top of that, some restaurants use oil/butter (added fats) so make sure your entry has plenty of protein and fats.
You have to realize that restaurant food is going to be more calorie dense and portion dense than your home cooked meals. Restaurants tend to add oil, sugar, butter, milk, etc.
It is totally fine if you go out and you want to consume something calorie dense. However, be aware that you are going to need to reduce your calories throughout the day in order to account for it. You need to understand that you can’t necessarily have everything.
Example: If I decide to have a pizza at Blaze (let’s say it’s 650 cal, 23 fat, 80 carbs, 33 protein) I KNOW that’s a lot for me in one meal, so I won’t probably be able to enjoy the ice cream that I usually have at night, or my rice cakes with peanut butter. Instead, I will have a salad (because vegetables are really low carb/cal) and I can use a dressing that is low fat or fat free.
Weigh up the costs and benefits. Is it actually worth saving lots of calories for that meal? Or could you go for a different option in order to be fuller throughout the day?
You can also save a decent portion of calories if you don’t know what restaurant you will go to.
The good thing about tracking your food, it’s that you will learn which foods contain which macronutrients. Build on your knowledge over time and estimating becomes a lot easier. Other thing you can do when you go out to eat is use your reefed/high carb days.
Remember that consistency is key. Also, keep in mind that eating out may result in bloating, water retention and an increase on the scale.
Understand that a margin of error exists when you eat out and therefore the more frequently you do so, the more chance you leave of being over or under your calorie goal.
Be as flexible as you want to be. That’s why is called “Flexible Dieting”. It’s your body, your macronutrients, your calories, your goals, your life, and it all comes down to what you want to get out of it.
Now, please take a seat and enjoy some of the meals I have been able to enjoy WITHOUT feeling guilty. =)