Yes - I love dining out. I also want to support small local businesses. That said, if eating out becomes part of my regular routine instead of just something we do on occasion, I feel like shit.
It can be very challenging to consistently dine out and still reach your nutrition, physique and athletic goals. I’m not saying it can’t be done but there are a lot more factors at play. When you eat food prepared by someone else you often give up control over how that food is prepared and what ingredients are going into it. It is also much more challenging to control your portion sizes, and food quality. If you truly care about dialing in your nutrition, my best advice is to prepare your own meals and snacks whenever possible and that means - eat out less. A lot less, if possible. But that said, you’re going to want and even need to visit a restaurant on occasion. Here are some ideas to help you stay on track when you can’t eat in your own kitchen.
Find restaurants that provide nutritional information and/or offer fresh, local ingredients
Plan ahead. Look at the menu on-line before you go out to eat. Decide what you want and try to plan your day around it. Are you craving pasta for dinner tonight? Maybe eat a lower carb breakfast and lunch to free-up your carbs for dinner
Order meals that contain a greater amount of fresh vegetables and protein
Oder options that are easy to track (fresh cuts of meat or fish and simple sides)
If you are following a macro plan, don't stop tracking just because you have to estimate and guess a little. Your estimations will still be better than nothing
Read the menu carefully and don't be afraid to ask your server questions. You should know how your meal is being prepared. Is this dish deep-fried or grilled?
Ask for what you want. For example, you can ask that your fish is steamed or that your meat is grilled. You can also ask that less oil or butter be used in the process, or that the protein is served dry.
Ask for dressings, toppings and sauces on the side. There is nothing wrong with a little mayo, but if you know your sandwich may come smothered in it, you are better off to put it on yourself. Cheese can be delicious on a salad but too much and you can easily blow you daily fats. Asking for the high calorie toppings on the side allows you to still eat the food you enjoy, but you are in far more control of the amount. You can also do this for some meats or fish that come with unique and delicious sauces. That way you can still try the sauce but your meal wont be drowned in it.
Watch portion sizes. Restaurants are not changing serving sizes to accommodate for the different needs of individuals. A burger will be roughly the same size regardless of if you are a 130-pound woman or a 200-pound man. If the meal looks too big for you - ask for a box and pack away half of it before you dig in. This way you will have a lunch for tomorrow as well!
Avoid trigger foods or high calories sides. I love fries, you fries, we get it. Here's a common scenario: Your ordered the chicken wrap with mayo on the side. You feel good about your order, saying to yourself, "it's healthy-ish, right!?" You know the wrap comes with fries, but you figure you'll just fill up on the wrap and maybe have one or two. Then the greasy goodness hits your lips. Suddenly you're sucking down one succulent french fry after another. You feel so bad, but they taste so good. You look down and your plate is almost empty. You try to tell yourself it was just this one time but you leave with an upset filled with nothing but trans fats and regret. STOP. Ask what comes on the side. If you can't control yourself around fries or a certain food you know is not very nutritious, order salad or veggies on the side.
Eat slowly and enjoy the experience. Eating slowly allows are body more time to digest and send fullness ques to the brain. Enjoy the company and conversation of others and take your time.
Watch what you drink. If you only eat out once in a while maybe wine will be on the menu for you. However, if you have to eat out frequently due to work or travel, maybe you don't need the extra calories from alcohol or sugary beverages. Look for areas where you can easily cut back calories and still feel satisfied.