Over the past decade there has been a year-on-year growth in the number of breakfasts, lunches and dinners consumed in the country’s cafés and restaurants. People are relying more and more on restaurants to supplant their household food consumption and the idea of ‘dining out’ is no longer viewed as just a ‘treat’.
This is great for people looking to socialise, celebrate notable anniversaries and entertain guests. Not so great for people like you, who want to lose fat, change your lifestyle and continue to get lean; without declining invitations to join friends and ruin social lives just because ‘you’re on a diet’ of course.
Fortunately there are ways to combat the problem of eating out and still continue to make progress with your physique based goals. You still need to be well equipped to make sensible choices though and still get exactly what your body requires while enjoying yourself with friends and family.
- Plan Ahead
Most restaurants and places to dine out will provide online menus and information on their website. Becoming proactive and planning what you’ll be able to have before you’ve even arrived will leave you one step ahead of the game.
Accounting for any extra calories, and forecasting any obstacles you may have to overcome while out will help you become assertive in your decisions, leaving you to enjoy your meal without constantly worrying about the choices you’re making.
- Drink Lots of Water
Consuming calorific beverages is an unforgiving way to needlessly torpedo your calorie intake at a meal. Minimising these often superfluous drinks will give you one of your biggest bangs for your buck when regulating calorie intake.
Abolishing wine or beer completely is unnecessary, but start your night with water and prioritise it until the time is right for that one alcoholic beverage if desired.
- Reject the Bread
The bread is plonked onto the table and seems to incessantly stare at you until you reluctantly pick up and incessantly nibble at a piece. Just because it’s brought to the table doesn’t mean you need to eat it though.
Missing out on those extra calories won’t ruin your meal and you certainly won’t miss those unwarranted carbohydrates. Politely tell the waiter or waitress you don’t require it for the evening, even before they bring that provoking basket to the table.
- Start with a Salad
You were always told to eat more vegetables as a child, and it’s true! Consuming more vegetables will always lead to fewer calories consumed later on in the meal. To ensure you maximise your vegetable intake, start your meal with a vegetable rich salad.
- Have a Protein Shake Beforehand
Loading up on a simple whey protein shake before heading out for a meal will ensure you’ll hit your daily protein requirement. Furthermore, it will probably fill you up meaning you’ll be less likely to consume more calories while you’re out.
- Load Up on Protein During the Meal
Prioritising dishes that come with a protein heavy element will save on calories and fill you up faster. Protein is more satiating than carbohydrates so always give precedence to meat, fish or egg dishes rather than relegate protein to garnish significance.
- Avoid the Starch & Increase Vegetables
Restaurants will often use the trick of filling up your plate with starchy carbohydrates like rice, pasta and potatoes. While these aren’t inherently bad for you, skipping these carbohydrate dense and calorific foods when you’re out will easily ensure you don’t exceed your carbohydrate intake for the day.
Try asking the waiter or waitress to replace anything starchy in your dish with extra vegetables – less calories and more nutrients will ensure a far more satisfying meal, ensuring you stay well on track.
- Make Requests
You’re in charge of your meal – don’t be afraid to make modifications! It’s also worth remembering that chefs have had to deal with far more ridiculous requests than someone wanting a healthier version of their meal.
Enquire whether you can have something grilled, or swap a portion for vegetables or even get the dressing and sauces to go on the side.
- Skip Dessert
Sweet ‘treats’ are not bad for you, nor should they be completely shunned from your lifestyle. However calorific desserts provided at restaurants are a recipe for disaster. The best way to combat this problem is to make an assertive decision that you no longer consume desserts when out.
If others round the table decide to devour the dessert menu, order a coffee or a flavoured tea and enjoy the company.
- Eat Slowly & Stop!
Just because it’s there doesn’t mean you have to stuff yourself - food doesn’t get more delicious the more you eat of it! Stop when you’ve had enough and ask to take the rest home.
Your brain always takes longer to realise your full so always take longer to consume your meal and enjoy it to its full degree.
- Be Assertive
Going out with friends is often a troublesome time, purely from potential intense peer pressure. It can often be seen as embarrassing or silly to order a salad or ask for replacements in your meal.
The best way to resist jovial harassment is to be assertive. Explain you have an ‘allergy’ or get a ‘weird reaction’ to certain types of foods (people often don’t like to hear about toilet troubles). Also merely state you just ‘don’t’ have that type of food’. People tend not to ask any more questions after that.
We’re all human and if you decide to eat out at a restaurant, don’t classify it as a ‘bad thing’ or even a ‘cheat meal’. Don’t dwell on the meal you’ve just had if you felt it could have gone better – it was a conscious decision you chose to make.
Get back on track immediately and next time you dine out work on utilising more of the tips outlined above. It is doable!