While on your quest to bettering your body, one of the biggest struggles most people will face is learning how to eat properly while dining out.
Sure, you could sit at home each evening and carefully prepare, measure, and weigh all your foods so you never miss a beat on your diet plan.
And, if you are training for a fitness or bodybuilding competition, that’s likely what you will be doing. You need to take your diet absolutely seriously at this point.
But, what about the rest of the time? What about the average individual who simply wants to look great naked and feel even better? What if health is your focus?
In this case, sitting at home every night and missing out on socializing experiences is likely not the best route to go. You want to strive for balance in your life and part of that is eating with others.
But in comes the question, how can you possibly eat right at a restaurant?
If you’ve ever taken a look at the nutritional stats of some of your favorite dishes in popular restaurants, you’ll come to see that many come loaded with 700+ calories – some as high as nearly 2000 calories per meal.
Clearly this is not going to fit in with a healthy eating plan no matter what diet you happen to be on.
How can you survive this?
Let’s go over your 10-step plan for surviving a restaurant meal with your diet intact.
Before you go forward however, check out the video below to learn the one biggest secret you must do while eating your meal to prevent fat gain.
Let’s get to your 10 steps.
Step 1: Review Menu Online
Let’s begin at the beginning. Before you even enter the restaurant, it’s time to do your homework. This means reviewing the menu online and seeing if there is in fact anything you can eat beforehand.
Most restaurants now will post their full menu online and if you get really lucky, they may even post nutritional stats.
Keep in mind, these are not set in stone.
Of course you can –and likely should – make modifications when you go (we’ll get to that shortly!) but right now, just consider viable options.
With a little changing, is there something that will fit your diet?
It doesn’t matter if you’re doing a low carb diet, a low fat diet, a high calorie diet, or what have you – find out if there is a meal on that menu that will work with your plan.
If there isn’t, suggest another restaurant. If you are going with people you know, chances are good you can have a say in this factor.
Step 2: Eat Right Before You Go
Next, you need to plan how you eat before you go.
DO NOT do what most people do and try and ‘bank’ calories. You may think that saving calories for later is the fastest route to keeping yourself lean.
You figure if you don’t eat all day long, you can indulge without guilt. You have that wiggle room.
But realize, indulging in a restaurant will often cost you more calories than you get to eat in an entire day.
If you go in for appetizers, a main course meal, as well as a dessert, you can easily set yourself back 1500 or more calories.
Chances are no, no matter how much you ‘save’ calories from skimming your earlier meals, you won’t build up this much of a bank.
Plus, if you skip meals before you hit the restaurant, it will only backfire on you as you’ll be so incredibly hungry by the time you do eat.
Soon you’ll be eating without control and that will only mean far more calories are consumed.
Make sure to eat a light snack consisting of a lean protein along with plenty of fiber about 1-2 hours prior to the meal. A grilled chicken with some salad, a hard boiled eggs with some raw vegetables, or your own home-made vegetarian smoothie will all work perfectly here.
You don’t want to eat a large meal before you go of course, but around 200 calories should help you better control your appetite and ensure that you make smart food decisions.
Step 3: Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
The third step is to hydrate your body properly. Too many people mistake thirst for hunger. If you’re going into the meal thirsty, there’s a good chance that the food you eat will taste even better (because you are thirsty) and this can also get you on an uncontrollable food consumption roller coaster.
In the two hours leading up to the meal, aim to drink at least four glasses of water.
This may seem like a lot, but it will ensure you don’t arrive dehydrated.
Remember that most people are currently walking around in a dehydrated state as it is. Having this extra water consumption will help you counteract that.
For bonus points, opt for your ionized water. This will help provide extra antioxidants and will also help get your pH balance where it needs to be.
Step 4: Just Say No To Appetizers
So you open the menu and begin feasting your eyes on appetizers.
Unless you are ordering a shrimp cocktail, there are likely no appetizers for you. Almost all appetizers will be deep fried in some way, come loaded with sauces, or are breaded, so consider these off limits.
Plus, if you order an appetizer and a main course meal, you’re only going to increase your overall calorie consumption even further.
The only exception to this rule is if you do find that your restaurant does have a healthy appetizer option (it’s a rare bread!) and you choose to make that your main course meal.
In that case, go for it.
But order it to come out when everyone else is getting their main course meal so you aren’t ending up sitting there with no food to eat.
Step 5: Know Where To Look
Now it’s time to navigate the waters and try and figure out what you should and shouldn’t order.
The first and typically best place to look is at the salads.
Salads are great for a number of reasons.
- They aren’t cooked so the option of sneaking in added butter/oil/sugar is lower.
Whenever you order a cooked dish, there is always the chance the chef snuck in something that you definitely should not be consuming.
Did you know that the first ingredient and the last ingredient in many dishes is butter? You would be simply amazed at how much butter and/or oil chef’s are adding to your meal.
Because you can’t actually see this butter, it often goes unknown. You may be able to tell it’s in there simply by how your food tastes or because you can see a little bit of grease on your plate, but you don’t know how much.
And usually, if you did, it would make you sick.
Likewise with sugar. While the chef may not be specifically adding sugar out of a bowl to your meal, it can come in with the many sauces or condiments that they use.
Since a salad is not cooked, you can literally see every ingredient it’s made from. The only sauce or condiment to go on is salad dressing and you can easily request that on the side.
- You can add a lean protein to just about any salad.
Does the restaurant only offer green-based salads? No problem. Almost every restaurant there will allow you to have some grilled chicken on top. It’s a fast and easy way to get your lean protein in.
Even if it’s not on the menu, just ask for it.
And if you’re eating a vegetarian diet plan, salads can still be a great choice, but you’ll want to either try and find one that contains beans and nuts or choose to have a little more protein before your meal and just stick to the greens while eating out.
- They’re easily modifiable.
Which brings us to the next big benefit salads offer: they’re easily modifiable.
Does the salad come with ramen noodles? (which are way too high in fat and processed carbs to eat as part of a healthy diet)
No problem. Just ask they be removed.
Are candied nuts included? Request they are removed as well. Or, simply eat around them.
You can easily create a salad that will meet your nutritional needs with just a few modifications.
- They contain plenty of nutrients.
Finally, the last great thing about salads is usually they are loaded with healthy nutrients. You’ll get greens (which simply can’t be beat!), you’ll get added veggies such as peppers, onions, carrots, tomatoes, and cucumbers, and you’ll often get some fresh fruit as well.
It’s a nutrient and fiber powerhouse.
If the salad contains nuts or avocado’s, you’ll also get some healthy fats in there as well.
All in all, you simply can’t go wrong with salads. Just know which ingredients to leave off your salad.
These ingredients include: croutons, bacon bits, cheese (in most cases), sour cream, noodles of any variety, and tortilla chips.
So if you can, start with a salad. It’s simply easiest when dining out.
Now, what if you don’t want a salad – or they really have no options that are good for you?
Then it comes time to looking at the main course menu.
Here are some general guidelines to follow:
- Always choose grilled protein over baked, fried, or coated
- Opt for steamed vegetables over French fries or other starches (and request no butter be used)
- Request that any sauces for your dishes be served on the side
- Stay away from any cream based sauces and choose tomato based sauces instead
- If ordering a sandwich, ask for it ‘open face’ (with only one slice of bread) or skip the bread altogether
- If ordering rice, request brown rice
- If you need more carbs, get a baked potato over mashed or French fries
- Consider a broth based vegetable soup over a cream based one
- Go vegetarian and get a dish prepared with beans or tofu rather than meat
- Always request less or no sour cream/cheese/or other add-ons with your meal
The type of cuisine you are eating will largely dictate the types of modifications that you need to make, so use your own background information about proper nutrition and the descriptions of your dishes to help you decide.
Step 6: Request Modifications
Further to step five, do not ever be afraid to ask for modifications on your meal. Too many people think that they can only remove something that is on the menu.
This isn’t always the case.
As more restaurants are becoming aware that people are choosing to lead healthier lifestyles, they are open to the idea of catering to their patrons.
Don’t see something on the menu that you like?
Request they make it.
For instance, if you already know they prepare grilled chicken by looking at other dishes they’re serving (as almost every restaurant does!), see if you can’t just get a grilled chicken breast with a side of steamed broccoli and a garden green salad.
This should be easy for any chef to whip up and it will fit perfectly in with your diet plan. Despite the fact it’s not on the menu, you can order it if you just ask.
So get paste the fear of not requesting the dishes that you really want. At times, this could be your only option if you are going to eat healthy and stick to your plan.
Step 7: Request Half Your Meal Be Boxed Up Before It Arrives
Here’s another sneaky tip to eat right at a restaurant: request half of the meal boxed up before it comes to your table.
Restaurant portions these days are notorious for being extra large, which only means that many more calories going into your body.
Even if you do make healthy modifications and choose wisely, there’s a good chance you will still be served way too much food.
While you may have the best of intentions of only eating half your meal when it arrives, most people, when the food is sitting there right in front of them, will go ahead and eat it anyway.
If you request that half the food is boxed up before it hits your table, you won’t have to worry about this being an issue.
As the saying goes, ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
As an added benefit, you’ll have lunch for the next day already planned out.
Step 8: Eat Slowly
Once your meal does arrive, don’t rush through it. If you’ve done what was suggested above and you made sure that you didn’t go in starving and you hydrated yourself well, you shouldn’t feel like you want to inhale every bite in under five minutes.
Try putting your fork down between bites and getting involved with the conversation of those around you.
The slower you eat, the greater the chances are that your brain will have time to register that you’ve had enough and that it’s time to stop eating.
If you eat your food rapidly, you’ll clean your plate before your brain can receive the satiety signals that you have had enough.
Remember there’s no rush. You are there to enjoy the company of others, so make sure that you do so.
Step 9: Finish With Fruit
Eyeing up the dessert menu?
In a word: avoid.
There are simply no modifications you can make to the desserts listed on the menu that will make them okay for you to eat.
If you have a sweet tooth that just won’t quit, your best bet is simply ordering fruit (if the restaurant offers it) or waiting until you get home and having some fresh berries there.
Desserts in restaurants can easily come in around 1000 calories or more, so there is just no way to build these into your diet and make them a healthy part of your meal plan.
Step 10: Modify Your Day From There
Finally, the last step that you’ll want to take to eat in a restaurant while still BioOptimizing your body is to modify your day from there.
Based on what you ate at the restaurant, you now may want to take in slightly fewer calories in the meals that follow, or if you are on a higher calorie diet and ate light in the restaurant, you may need to actually increase your calorie intake during meals to come to help make up for this and still hit your daily totals.
While you may not know exactly how many calories you ate while dining out, you can likely get a rough estimation that will help you decide from there the best approach to take for the rest of the day.
For many people, eating out at a restaurant is a major contributor of stress to their day. It really doesn’t have to be however if you are simply willing to follow some general guidelines.
Does it mean you won’t be able to eat what you want?
Yes, it will. You can’t have optimal health and eat whatever you find appealing on the menu, this is a fact. But, you will find that once you get into the habit of eating like this and ordering properly from a restaurant that you no longer want to order those unhealthy items any longer.
You’ll leave the restaurant feeling satisfied, both physically and psychologically and won’t be left with the feeling of being weighed-down or bloated like you may have usually felt before.
Once you come to this realization, chances are you won’t have it any other way. Plus, you’ll have learned to never fear eating out again. You won’t feel that you now have to be restricted socially just because you want to stick to a healthy eating plan.
Living healthy shouldn’t be about making sacrifices that cause you to be unhappy. Those who successfully lead the healthy lifestyle learn how to make it work with all the other things they love to do.
When you can do that, you’ll no longer feel deprived, restricted, or unhappy making the changes you need to be making.
Want to learn more about how you can BioOptimize your body and achieve ultimate health and happiness?
Check out my 84 day course on BioOptimization. You only get one chance at life so make sure that you are making the most of it.