Dieting usually causes us to hate things we truly love. We love cake but our "diet" says no. We love relaxing and being a couch potato every once in a while but our desire to do more to lose weight gets in the way. We love holidays but we're scared of being around all that food.
Some of us even hate going out to eat. It causes us to get off plan and to lose our progress. When I was growing up, we rarely ate out. It was always a special evening and my family loved those nights. When I first started my nutrition journey, I started fearing going out to eat because I might just splurge.
This doesn’t have to be the case, though. There are plenty of ways to go out to eat while counting macros and while sticking to the plan.
I’m 100% for flexible dieting and “if it fits your macros” approach. Why? Because it lets you sometimes (only sometimes) fit treats within your macros. We just don’t want to be doing it all day every day.
Follow this 3-Step Plan to stay on track while also enjoying a night out.
Step 1. Plan.
The best thing you can do is to plan ahead! Most often times, you know where you’re going out to eat. If not, decide that first thing in the day. Pull up the menu (when you’re not hungry) and decide what you’re going to eat. Choose an option that counting macros is feasible. For example, a burger and fries is SO easy to track, but some fancy in-depth and in-house dish (like the famous cabbage pancake from Xiao Bao Biscuit) is a bit trickier. Choose options that have a protein, veggies, and carbs as this is easy to track AND helps you stay healthy while going out. Plug all this into MyFitnessPal or whatever app you use to track food. Since we’re eating out, there are a ton of hidden fats via cooking oils and butters. Go ahead and add a full serving of fat (1 tbsp olive oil) to your log. See where your macros are at and fill the rest in to meet your macro allotment of the day.
Now some of you may be wanting that fancy in-depth meal. Be honest with yourself. Are you in a cut to lose weight? If so, we may want to save that for after your cut. It’s hard now but think of the results you’re working so hard to achieve. If not, then we have some wiggle room! Can you afford (physically and mentally) that treat? Will you beat yourself up over it or will you thoroughly enjoy the break and maybe a few extra calories? If the answer is yes you can afford it and no you will still love yourself, then simply plan what you’re getting but don’t log it into your tracking app. Still make sure there is a protein, carb, and veggie source. If I’m getting that cabbage pancake from Xiao Bao Biscuit, then I’m also splitting an protein-centered appetizer. Yes you can ADD more food at a restaurant to stay on track. More food for better results? Yes please!
Step 2. Prepare.
In the hours leading up to your night out, don’t deprive yourself. Eat AND exercise to get the most out of your fancy shmancy dinner. If you’re tracking your dinner, then eat those meals earlier in the day to meet your macros for the day. Always get that last meal 2-3 hours before dinner. You want to be going to dinner hungry but not starving. If you go in starving with a healthy plan in your mind, that’s going to go to s***. I’ve gone to my favorite burger place with my plan to get the burger, no bun with a side of either Brussel Sprouts, sweet potato fries, or a side salad but didn’t eat for 5-6 hours and go in starving and order the burger with the bun with normal French fries and a cider or cocktail. That throws things off and I’m left pissed at myself for going off plan and no longer having my macros set.
If you’re not tracking that dinner, then eat 2-3 meals earlier in the day. Opt for a egg scramble or omelet full of veggies for breakfast and a hearty bowl or salad with 2 servings of protein thrown in there for lunch. If you get hungry, have a snack of yogurt and fruit 2 hours beforehand for some more protein. This will keep you full, get the nutrients you need but also give you some leniency.
Step 3. Execute
Walk into that restaurant like a boss and order what you came to order. Tell a friend beforehand what you’re getting so you stay accountable. I have my clients text me beforehand when they’re going out to eat and need some accountability. Don’t let hunger or emotions ruin the game for you. Still make sure you’re getting food you enjoy. I don’t enjoy dining out and getting salads. Yes they’re healthy but I don’t want to do that, so I don’t. I’m just as well off if I get a burger with a side of yummy veggies as I am getting a salad.
When your food comes, eat the veggies and protein first! Chew your food. Eat slowly. Enjoy conversation. Then as you finish those, move to the carbs. Stop eating when you feel full. If you’re like me, I tend to eat until the waiter takes my plate, so I fix this by putting my napkin on my plate preventing me from eating more, making me stuffed.
Stay away from too much alcohol. Order a drink with dinner not one before and one with and one after. Choose low-sugar options: dry white wine or red wine, liquor with soda water and lime as a mixer instead of a sugary mix. We can splurge and treat ourselves without having 3-5 drinks.
Going out to eat doesn’t have to be miserable. Flexible dieting lets us enjoy life and food, and we should allow ourselves the leniency to do so!