The first question everyone on a weight-loss journey should ask is, how can I change my diet to achieve optimal health and sustainable fat loss? While there are many different trendy diets out there—paleo, keto, carnivore, vegan, etc.—there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all diet.
There are definitely some general guidelines that people can follow, though, that will help them achieve a well-functioning body and mind, which in turn makes weight loss much easier to accomplish.
I’ve been a weight-loss coach for several years and have coached many different women from various walks of life through their successful weight loss journeys. One of the biggest questions I get is how to eat out without sacrificing your healthy diet or your enjoyment. Because at the end of the day, I want all my clients to enjoy their life and their food. What good is losing weight if you’re miserable and hate what you eat?
I always recommend eating out less often when you’re trying to lose weight (try to limit it to just once or twice a week), but there will always be times when you go out to dinner with friends or there’s a special occasion. Those are the times to be cognizant of what you’re ordering at restaurants and how it can affect your body. To make it easy for you, I’ve laid out my four best tips to eat out while staying healthy and enjoying yourself.
Go for a Simple Combination of Protein, Carb, and Veggies
Most menus feature creamy, fatty dishes that sound like pure comfort food. It might be tempting to indulge in a huge plate of fettuccine alfredo, but you’re better off going with something simpler. Choose a dish that has three simple components: protein, carbohydrates, and veggies. For example, there are usually dishes like roasted chicken with potatoes and asparagus, grilled salmon with couscous and mixed vegetables, filet mignon with baked potato and brussels sprouts. These are the types of dishes that you should go for.
Prioritizing protein is one of the most important things you can do when you’re trying to lose weight.
Prioritizing protein is one of the most important things you can do for your diet if you’re trying to lose weight and stay healthy. Protein is the only thing we eat that builds lean muscle (which we need to burn fat, boost our metabolism, and burn more calories), and it also leaves us feeling very satiated so we don’t feel the need to snack on something else later. Additionally, meeting our protein goals regularly helps to curb sugar cravings.
Opt in for one of these simple dishes on the menu whenever you can, and if you don’t see anything on the menu that looks similar to these options, you can always ask for substitutions.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask for Modifications on the Menu
I’ve never been turned down when I ask for a modification on the menu and neither have my clients. Because when you put a big smile on your face and ask politely, your server and the cook in the kitchen will be happy to accommodate you. If the only options you see on the menu are deep fried, you have every opportunity to request for the protein to be grilled or sauteed. For example, if there are fish tacos on the menu and the fish is deep fried, you can always ask for the fish to be sauteed in a pan without any breading. If there’s a loaded baked potato on the menu with sour cream, cheese, and bacon, you can always ask for the baked potato to come plain with some butter on the side. If the chicken comes with French fries, you can ask for veggies or a side salad instead.
Don’t forget that you can also ask them to leave out part of the dish altogether. If the item you want on the menu has a side of French fries and there’s nothing to substitute it with, you can always request for that part of the dish to be left out altogether. This is why I always recommend looking at the menu before you arrive at the restaurant. Take a look at what is available and you can get a good sense of what you want to eat and how you want to ask for substitutions.
Portion Out Your Food Methodically
One of the biggest downsides to eating out is the sheer portion size that restaurants hand out to their patrons. Some plates look big enough to feed three people! No wonder so many Americans are obese or overweight; most people are overeating at every meal and don’t even know it. When you get your plate at the restaurant, you may have to portion out your meal.
Your protein should be about the size of your palm, and your carb should be about the size of your fist.
A great rule of thumb is, your protein should be about the size of your palm and your carb/starch should be about the size of your fist. That might mean you have to share some of your food with friends or save part of your meal for a takeout box so you can eat the rest for lunch the next day. If you’re out with friends and the group is ordering several different dishes for everyone to share, you can portion out your meal from the shared plates using these same metrics. Because it’s important to remember that eating out doesn’t necessarily mean you have to overeat.
Put Your Fork Down Between Bites
This may not sound like a useful tip, but it will actually be the most important thing you take away from this list. The whole point of going out to eat is to enjoy yourself! The primary focus should be your friends or family members around you. Put down your fork in between bites, really chew your food, and listen to what they have to say. The more you engage in conversation, the more you will savor your experience and the more you’ll be able to eat consciously. It’s so easy to overeat when there’s a lot of stimulation around you, so be sure to take a break in bites to chew, breathe, and take it all in.
The last thing I want is for eating out to turn into a stressful experience. Eating out can be both enjoyable and healthy! All it takes is a little preparatory thought and conscious choices at the table. And remember, if you eat outside the boundaries of your everyday diet when you’re eating out, that’s totally okay. You just wake up the next morning and go back into your normal pattern of eating. Simple as that.
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