So you've been invited out to a restaurant; maybe it's a friend's birthday or a date night, something you really don't want to turn down because you value your social life. However, you've been trying so hard to stay on track with your diet and don't want to ruin any progress. Do you stay at home and eat the same thing you always do, or do you join them? We want you to join, so here are a few tips to keep in mind so that you can enjoy those occasions guilt free and remain on track with your diet.
1. Ask questions and do your research
A lot of restaurants nowadays have their nutrition information easily accessible online, or can provide it to you if you ask. As of recently, all chain restaurants are required to include the calories for every item on their menu, so try and start by picking a chain restaurant (more than 20 locations). If you end up going somewhere that isn't a chain and has no available information, there are a lot of estimations of nutrition information for popular dishes online. As well, you can research each ingredient or component of your meal separately and add up the numbers on your own. If you order something like a stir fry, wrap or a chicken dish and aren't sure of every ingredient that is used, or whether it is white or dark meat etc., your server should be able to inform you so you can make an even better educated guess on what the macros are.
2. On the Side
You can ask for many items on the side so that they are easier to eyeball, and you are in control of how much you eat. Dressings, sauces/marinades, cheese, dried fruits and nuts (in salads mostly) etc. are usually overkill on most menu items anyway, and by ordering on these items on the side you can typically eliminate at least half of the amount and still enjoy your meal.
3. No oil, please
After working in a restaurant, it has opened my eyes to how many things are cooked with excess amounts of butter and oil, when they could very simply be grilled or steamed without. The most common example would be veggies. I used to think that by ordering a side of veggies instead of a starch I was cutting down the calories of my meal, when really with the amount of oil or butter that is used sometimes does the opposite. Same with grilled chicken or fish - ask for it to be cooked on the grill without any oil or butter and you'll be saving yourself some macro room for [a bite of] dessert!
4. Avoid the killers (calorically dense foods)
Salads would seem to be the smartest choice on a menu while you're eating out, but they tend to be some of the highest calorie foods because of the dressings and toppings that are added. High calorie dressings, dried fruits, cheese, nuts and seeds are all deceivingly high in calories for very small amounts. This is why it is a smart call to order such items on the side, or omit them all together and substitute for extra veggies or a simplified dressing such as plain balsamic vinegar.
5. Keep it simple
The best things to order off a menu when you are trying to track your intake are items such as a chicken platter with rice and veggies, a simple salad with veggies and a protein source with all of the extras on the side. Even a steak (research ahead of time which one on the menu is the leanest type) with a side of veggies and a simple starch (baked potato, rice) that isn't cooked with any extras. Every kitchen should have vegetables and a chicken breast, so don't be afraid to order something you don't see on the menu.
About the author
Maggie Morgan is a competitive powerlifter and former bodybuilder, as well as a devoted macro-counter. She’s passionate about lifting and all things flexible dieting (mostly donuts). She is a nutrition and fitness coach at Maggie Morgan Fitness, and hopes to share her learned knowledge with as many people as possible. www.maggiemorganfitness.com