Eating out while following a weight loss diet might look as easy as walking on eggshells. The truth is that having a varied and balanced diet that supports your weight loss is not incompatible with eating out from time to time. Actually, the social dimension of eating out (having fun, sharing a nice meal with family or friends, enjoying a nice meal…) is very important for your balance and hence your weight loss. Therefore, we will give you a few tips to make it easy – or at least manageable – to eat out while keeping an eye on your diet.
First of all, let’s start by a few tips to follow beforehand.
Check the menu of the restaurant
Most of the restaurants have their menus online. Therefore, if you have already made a reservation, or know where you will be going, it is a good idea to check the menu. Why? Firstly, because it gives you time to have a look at the different options offered, and choose the leanest ones (grilled lean meats oven deep fried ones, vegetables, healthy swaps…). Secondly, it gives you time to make wise choices, time and focus that you won’t necessarily have while discussing with your friends, or under the influence of hunger.
Don’t skip meals
Skipping lunch in prevision of a heavier dinner out is not a good idea. Why? Because it increases the chances of arriving at dinner time starving and eating everything that you set eyes on. Instead, you could have a small and balanced lunch and eventually a light snack (crackers and cottage cheese, yogurt and fruits, …). Consequently, when dinner arrives you will be able to enjoy, without overeating.
You are now at the restaurant, let’s see the good habits to adopt!
A salad can be a good idea, but watch out for the dressing
If you choose a salad as a healthy alternative, this might be a good idea. However, in most restaurants, salads are served drowned under a ton of dressing. Asking to have the dressing on the side can make a huge difference. Let’s take an example. At a very well know fast food chain, you can also order salads, for a caloric value of approx. 140kcal. Then you have the choice between several dressings, one of them has a caloric value of 183 kcal – which is more than the salad that you are about to eat and almost as much as ¾ of a small portion of fries. Therefore, choosing your dressing (olive oil and balsamic over mayonnaise for instance) and being able to measure it out yourself can help you manage your intake.
Take your time. Eating slowly (in your everyday life too) has several benefits. Your brain needs time (+/- 20min) to process the signals that your body sends over saying that you are not hungry anymore. Therefore, chewing thoroughly and enjoying the company of your friends and family is a great way to manage your intake and avoid overeating. can help you full fuller faster.
Keep in head your portions’ size
When building your plate at home, you know the proportions of carbs, vegetables and protein you should have. Try to recreate these proportions at the restaurant too. For instance, add a portion of vegetables to your plate when needed. You can share with your friends or family or even ask at the restaurant if it’s possible to split your plate (half/half pizza and salad for instance). Managing your portions can therefore help you stay in line with your objectives.
Go easy on the liquid calories
Sodas, juices, wines and other alcohol-based drinks are rich in calories. While sodas and juices generally contain a lot of sugars, for the wine and alcohol-based drinks the one to blame is…. the alcohol. Even though it doesn’t seem super obvious, alcohol is a provider of calories: 1g of alcohol contains 7kcal – which is more than what carbs bring and a little bit less than fat. Therefore, if you really feel like it, have a drink but be reasonable with the quantities!
And then, what to do the next day?
No need to think about all the cardio that you have to do to burn the calories that you got last night. You don’t need either to starve yourself the next day nor look for an express detox. The best thing to do is to get back on track with your diet, continue with your good habits, varied and balanced meals with regular physical activity.
Actually, going out and eating with family/friends is part of your life and hence of your weight loss journey. Therefore, this shouldn’t become a threat for your diet, a source of frustration nor should you avoid social events on the pretext of being on a diet. Finding what allows you to keep an eye on your diet when eating out will help you make your new weight loss habits a part of lifestyle on the long term.