8 Ways to Eat Out & Stay Lean at the Same Time
For many of you, going on any sort of diet or taking your fitness to the next level means sacrificing a part of your social life (the eating out part). You want so badly to reach your goals, but you know going out with your friends or getting together at someone’s house may lead to 1) mellowing out your “eating rules” or 2) social pressure into having the chips instead of the veggie stix, that cheesy burger instead of a salad, or just a few extra beers. Agh!
Why is so hard to stay on track while socializing?
Mostly because it’s easier to give in to pressure or temptations rather than to challenge them. You don’t have to deal with talking about your health issues; you don’t have to defend why going on a pegan (paleo vegan) diet was the choice for you; you also don’t have to hear every single person’s opinion on it–and let’s be honest, a small part of you really wanted to indulge in that not-so-healthy pizza.
Besides, what if you can’t find any pegan-friendly foods on the menu? You either sit awkwardly without ordering any food while your friends mow down their meals or you cave in and eat something on your “naughty” list. And of course the one time you try to do something good for yourself, you’re friends tease you about it.
What’s worse, after you cave in you end up feeling really bad about veering off track–all the work you did, down the drain! (Which really isn’t true…as the saying goes, one day of eating healthy wont make you skinny, just like one day of unhealthy eating wont make you fat.)
The good news is, it doesn’t have to always be like this. There are ways to plan around the temptations and stay on track for your health, weight or fitness goal!
As for your friends, consider hanging out in a non-food/eating environment or find the courage to put your foot down–if you want to see results, you have to stick to your plan!
1. Prevent “hanger”
Nobody likes to be hangry. It’s that borderline angry feeling you get after not having eaten for a long time. Excessive hunger can make you impulsive with your meal choices. And it’s not bananas or broccoli that you want—it’s chips and doughnuts, and lots of it!
Plan ahead and don’t go to an event hungry. Have a sensible snack or a protein shake with at least 15g protein. This way, you feast mindfully rather than impulsively, which can often lead to overeating.
2. Avoid distractions
Avoid distractions while you eat. Distractions often lead to overeating or unsatisfactory eating. Don’t be so preoccupied with your IG or FB feed that you don’t remember how good that sandwich was. Give the smartphone a rest while you eat.
Truly savor, enjoy and focus on what you are eating. If it helps, put your silverware down between bites and take your time to chew. Remember, it takes 20 minutes for your brain to realize that your stomach is truly full.
3. Food first, drink later
While water or flavored water (think unsweet tea, or water with cucumber and lemon) are great choices for optimal health and watching your waist, we know they may not always be your top choices at social gatherings.
If you’re going to have an adult beverage, plan to have it with your food or after you’ve eaten. Drinking before you eat can enhance your appetite, lead to impulsive food choices and overeating.
4. Drink sensibly
We know cocktails and beer enhance the social spirit for many. But don’t forget, alcohol has calories too! (7 kcals per gram to be exact.) Choose lower calorie options like light beer (versus dark) or club soda with lime/muddled fruit for as your cocktail mixer. Also, try having a glass of water in between each drink (trust us, your body will thank you the following morning).
Worse case, have one cocktail of your choice and then make the switch over to the water-based mixer. And don’t forget to keep your health goals in mind!
5. Stick to protein and (non-starchy) veggies
(By non-starchy we mean no corn or potatoes). Not that you can’t have those, but you should choose meals that are heavy on the non-starchy kind (dark leafy greens, peppers, cauliflower/broccoli, green beans, etc.) which are low in calories while being highly nutritious. Don’t forget lean protein (fish, turkey, tofu, beans, etc.) which will keep you satiated, help control your blood sugar and burn a few extra calories!
6. Don’t let every outing be an excuse for “cheating”
Social gatherings are generally joyful times spent with family or friends. Certain occasions even call for indulging in special foods or beverages (and often high calorie ones).
But if you’re indulging every time you eat out or gather with friends you may be countering all your efforts toward your goals. Limit cheat meals or drinks to once or twice a week max. Skip appetizers and desserts most of the time as well.
Remember, it’s much easier to put on weight than take it off and all hard-work is not worth losing over a few poor choices.
7. Wear something tight fitting
It’s easy to be more lax with your eating while wearing loose clothing. After all, it stretches while your stomach stretches! Try wearing something snug to your social gatherings (not because you should be uncomfortable) but perhaps it will serve as an alarm or reminder to be mindful of your eating so that you don’t become uncomfortable from overeating.
8. Split your Meal
Not only will you save money by splitting your meal with someone, you will also save on calories. Most restaurant prepared meals tend to be significantly higher in calories than home made ones. This could be due in part to much bigger portion sizes or generally greasy methods of preparation.
Don’t have anyone to share with? As soon as your meal arrives, take a knife and split everything in half. Ask for a to-go box and put a half away which you can eat as leftovers on another day.
By: Scarlett Full, in-house Registered Dieititian