Eating out has become a staple of our culture. We eat out for convenience, for work, to be social, and to enjoy quality cuisine. Aside from it being a great way to waste a lot of hard earned money, it is also extremely damaging to your body and diet/fitness goals. Foods are processed, breaded, cooked in massive amount of butter or oil, deep fried, covered with sugary sauces, and washed down with 100+ calorie alcoholic beverages (If that just made you hungry, you need to go back and read “Let’s Get Started!” blog, lol). However, sometimes we just cannot resist eating out, or sometime we literally cannot avoid it. Work obligations, family obligations, friend obligations… These are all realities, and you don’t want to live the life of a hermit. You have to be realistic about eating out – it’s going to happen, often. The best thing you can do is be prepared. This guide will help you to make better choices while eating out!
First of all, if you are going out to eat on your own terms (you’re hosting a business meeting, or taking someone out to celebrate, or simply going out to eat with your significant other), then you need to choose a place that has the kinds of foods you can eat that won’t get you in trouble. Obviously this is the best situation you could wish for.
Which restaurants to avoid, when you can choose where to go:
Any kind of buffet, even if you try and convince yourself you’ll eat clean foods only and limit your intake. Do not go to a buffet unless you plan on cheating. You might think you can control yourself, and technically maybe you can, but why take such a risk? Just don’t go. It’s like a recovering alcoholic going to hangout at an open bar and trying to just drink water. It just isn’t a good idea. Avoid buffets unless you are cheating!
Any kind of all-you-can-eat specials. This is different than #1, because I have seen people (myself included, lol), who have gone to all-you-can-eat BBQ restaurants like Sonny’s and get smoked chicken, thinking it was healthy… Chicken… Protein… Muscles… Right? Wrong. I would get like 5 re-orders and eat some of the skin, and use a little sauce here and there, a bite of sides here and there, it can turn into a disaster.
Restaurants that give free bread, rolls, or chips such as Italian or Mexican restaurants. If you go to these places, tell them immediately before you even sit down that you do not want the bread, or the chips and salsa, or whatever they bring. If they bring them, be strong and tell them “No, thank you!” and let them take it back. If you’re sitting there watching someone else munching on piles of fresh fried tortilla chips and homemade salsa or bread with butter, you will more than likely cave in and eat it too.
Side note: This picture was taken at an amazing Italian restaurant by Old Saint Stephen Church in Little Italy in Boston. There are a few really good places around there. If you haven’t been, check it out!
Restaurants where the likelihood of eating healthy food on your plan is slim to none. Don’t act innocent. You full well know what I mean. Restaurants that sell basically all bar food like pizza, cheeseburgers, fries, chicken fingers, beer, loaded potatoes, etc. Sure, they might have some “healthy looking” options but it will be a fail 9 times out of 10. For example, I can’t tell you how many times I have tried ordered egg white omelets at breakfast joints thinking I’m doing good. I even tell them not to use butter or oil, only spray and/or water to cook it. Then it comes out swimming in a pile of hundreds and hundreds of calories of oil or butter. Disaster.
Side note: This picture is from one of my favorite places in Pittsburgh, PA – Primanti Brothers. I’ll only eat at the original location in the Strip District downtown. It is stuffed with coleslaw, tomatoes, meat, cheese, and a fried egg. I eat 2-3 of them, lol. I’m not proud.
If you cannot choose the restaurant, then follow these guidelines:
For breakfast, you absolutely will sound like a pain in the ass when you order, but too bad. Aim to get an egg white omelet with any veggies you want inside. If you can’t stand egg whites or the restaurant won’t do it, then settle for full eggs it is fine. Tell them specifically that you want it cooked without oil and without butter, and to only use the oil spray and/or water. Don’t get any kind of cereal, “healthy pancakes”, or bread. What you order will probably not be a meal, so you will have to substitute side dishes for what you want. If your meal comes with potatoes and/or bread, substitute them for sliced tomatoes. Nearly always that is a valid substitution everywhere I’ve been. If it comes with bacon or sausage, you can eat it – but realize this isn’t good for our diet. It would be better to keep your meal with a big veggie egg white omelet with sliced tomatoes. If you are addicted to coffee, remember that the cream and sugar will destroy you. Skip the sugar and use very little cream. You won’t like it at first, but get used to it. Force it. Eventually you need to stop dairy altogether and try coconut milk as a dairy creamer replacement, like I do.
For lunch or dinner meals, always try to find grilled protein (chicken, beef, whatever else) and vegetables. Substitute any potatoes, rice, bread, pasta, or whatever else – for extra vegetables. Be extremely specific that you do not want the protein or vegetables cooked in oil or butter. You want the protein grilled or smoked. You want the vegetables grilled or steamed. Be scared of words like sautéed or fried. Obviously any kind of breading is unacceptable, so avoid that. This includes meatballs, meatloaf, or any kind of breaded protein (even “healthy” sounding breading like Macadamia Coconut breaded Tilapia). I’m not a fan of alcohol on any level and think it wrecks your diet, body, and your energy levels. However, if you have to drink – have one drink and that is all. Don’t choose something full of syrup. Have a single glass of wine. Just don’t get carried away. Remember you’re trying to lose fat here, not see how much you can drink. Try to skip all sodas (yes, even diet soda). Get tea or water. Don’t use sugar or the sugar-substitution options on the table. If you’re as anal and psychotic as I am, you’ll bring your own sweetener (Stevia or Xylitol) if needed.
If you end up at a buffet or all-you-can-eat place, you need to really be careful. This should be your worst nightmare. Do not get carried away! You will set your body back days or weeks. I can eat so much at a buffet I ruin myself for over a week easily. Find protein options without breading and without a ton of sauces. Find vegetables. Have some raw veggies off the salad bar. Don’t eat 15 plates either. Go up once or twice and that’s enough. Enjoy your company, talk, do business, whatever – don’t make this about eating. It isn’t a competition to see how much you can eat.
If you end up at a fast food joint, honestly, I wouldn’t eat. I don’t care if that sounds elitist or anal. Gross, and unhealthy. You can find some healthy options if you try, but I would literally just get a drink and eat later. If you must, then get a couple grilled chicken sandwich and don’t eat the bun. Never eat fries!
Some additional advice on things that I have done, and still do, when eating out:
Sometimes I literally bring in my own prepared food and eat at the table. Whoever I am with orders food, and we both get drinks, and it has never been a problem. You can’t do this at nice restaurants, but normal restaurants it will be fine. I have even done this during important business meetings with clients, and honestly it has good results. They see it as dedication, no shame, fearless, etc. Don’t worry what other people think. Their brain is in their head, not yours. Worry about what thoughts are in your head.
When I get really strict on my diet, I measure all foods and ingredients, and record everything in my food diary, I will literally bring a food scale to the restaurant and weigh my individual foods so I can record them accurately. I know, it is completely insane and nearly everyone would never do that. But when you’re psycho about something, and care that much, then you’ll do things that might be a little outside of the norm. This is not required by any means, I just want to let you know that I used to do this at times, so if you feel the need – then do it! Who cares what other people think. You’re not in this world to make everyone else approve of your every action. Do what you need to do to accomplish the goals you are set out for – in this case, dieting.
Ultimately, you need to understand that eating out is never the best option. It is always better to prepare your own meals according to what your dietary goals are. But, if you must eat out, then be careful what you choose. You can set yourself back days or weeks if you let a bad meal turn into a bad day or days.
In closing, I’ll show you what I ate a couple weeks ago at my favorite Wiener Schnitzel place in Vienna, Austria – Figlmüller. They say this is the original place for Wiener Schnitzels for over 100 years.
Yeah, I ate a pork one and a veal one.
And all the side dishes…