Strategies for eating out while on your PNC nutrition plan
I always find that when I am trying to be strict with my nutrition, it is easiest to just eat the food I have prepared at home. With doing just that, there is no guessing game of whether the food I am consuming is healthy, how many calories it is, or how much fat is in something. Going out to eat can be stressful, especially when you’re trying to lose body fat, build lean muscle, better manage a chronic health condition, or just overall lead a healthier lifestyle. Sometimes a menu item may look like it is a healthy, good choice but then come to find out it is loaded with fat and calories from hidden ingredients in sauces, dressings, etc. So yes, it is easier to eat at home so you know exactly what is in your food, but it’s not that easy to turn down every dinner invite from your friends and family.
I’ve put together a list of my best tips to navigate a menu when you’re eating out while on a nutrition plan.
This way, you can feel at ease knowing you aren’t going to derail your nutrition plan every time you go out to a restaurant.
- Make sure you are well hydrated for the day. When your body is dehydrated and thirsty, it could mimic the same feeling that our body tells us when we are hungry. Drink lots of H20 that day and have a big glass of water prior to going to a restaurant. You will be more likely to eat less if you are well hydrated.
- The table bread, the chips and salsa, they are all a no no. There is just no way to justify this one, and we all know you can’t have “just one” (at least I can’t). So let’s just abstain from this all together. But how? Either ask others at the table if you can ask for no bread/chips, OR if others do want the bread/chips, then place them at the opposite end of the table so you are not tempted to eat them.
- Order for YOUR nutritional needs! Who says you have to order off the menu? When looking at options on a menu, you may be tempted by reading all different choices and descriptions. It can be more difficult to resist temptations when your stomach is already growling looking at all the different options to choose from. So, it may be best to not even look at a menu. At almost any restaurant, you can order a lean piece of protein (chicken, fish, sirloin), market vegetables, and some sort of a heathy option grain (brown rice, quinoa, potato). This will put your mind at ease knowing you ordered a well-balanced meal, and your body will be thanking you as well.
- Pay attention to descriptive words on how the meal is prepared. Choose options that are grilled, steamed, and baked. Avoid anything sautéed, fried, battered, creamed. Choosing wisely based on these descriptions alone will shave off hundreds of unwanted, hidden calories.
- It’s a salad, so it’s healthy, right? Not always. Yes, salads can be a very healthy option, but salads can also have a lot of goodies and toppings that are high in fat. Beware of salads topped with “candied” nuts, wonton strips, fried noodles, croutons, and cheese. These can add lots of calories and leave you feeling like you ate a double cheeseburger and fries. Dressing is another sneaky calorie culprit. Always get your dressing on the side and opt for vinegarettes rather than anything creamy.
- Look at the online menu nutrition facts before you go. A lot of restaurants now have their nutrition available online, which is awesome. I can’t tell you how many times I even thought something would be a good option, only to find out it is loaded with fat and an unnecessary amount of calories. Looking at the menu ahead of time will not only make you more aware of the nutrition you are ordering, it will have you prepared by ordering for your body’s nutritional needs, not wants.
- Last, and certainly not least, is alcohol. How do you say no when your family is in town, it’s your friend’s birthday celebration, or you’re at a sports bar watching a big game? We are surrounded by alcohol anytime a social event takes place. At PNC, we strongly advise you to avoid alcohol in order to see your intended results. Consuming alcohol while trying to achieve nutrition/health goals will indefinitely slow down your progress, and I still highly recommend you follow that (sir, yes, sir). Ordering a tonic or sparkling water with a lemon, lime, or choice of fruit will allow you to feel like you aren’t the odd man out, so those are great options. BUT- if you are going to indulge in an alcoholic beverage, avoid sugary mixers that add on a lot of calories. Avoid the margaritas, pina coladas, daiquiris, alcoholic milkshakes, etc. Some “better” choices could be a light beer, vodka with water or tonic with fruit slice, or a glass of red wine.
There is nothing worse than the guilt you feel after an unplanned indulgence or binge, not to mention your body feels like you just won a pie eating contest. Take a mental note of these tips when ordering out, and you will learn that eating out is totally manageable while still trying to achieve your health and nutrition goals!