With indoor dining and dinner parties off the menu for the time being, eating out is playing a more prevalent part in many of our lives now that we are finally allowed to meet up with loved ones outdoors.
Whether it’s catching up with colleagues or reuniting with friends and family, eating out should be something that we can embrace and enjoy even if you are working towards a nutrition or training goal.
People use eating a meal together to socialise and connect, so after months of lockdown now is the time to enjoy this at long last. Our guide to eating out will show you that finally enjoying a meal in a restaurant can be easily factored into everyday life whilst sticking with your nutrition plan (if you have one), and certainly shouldn’t be something that is avoided.
For several reasons, many panic about the ‘problems’ that eating out may throw at you. Food may be higher in calories than what you’d prepare at home for many reasons – portion size, ingredients and cooking methods. If you know that you are going to be eating out, rather than worry about falling ‘off track’, consider what you can add in to optimise your day.
Think about hitting that hydration goal before you head out, and opting for a fresh veggie filled breakfast and lunch. Be prepared and remember while we may break goals down into meals or daily intakes, look at your week as a whole and prepare in advance so that you can relax and order at ease.
For example, if you are looking to hit 1,500 kcals per day (total 10,500 kcal per week) and you know you are going out for dinner one evening and expect to consume around 2,000 kcals that day, you can then slightly adjust your intake on the other days, as below:
5 days – 1,400 kcals
1 day – 2,000 kcals
1 day – 1,500 kcals
Total = 10,500 kcals
This approach takes the pressure off and allows you to enjoy your social life without any massive restrictions across the week to ‘make up for it’.
4 things to consider:
- How the food is cooked. Anything fried is likely to be higher in calories – opt for baked, poached, steamed or grilled over fried if you’re monitoring your calorie intake
- Ask for dressings & sauces to be served on the side so you can add the amount you want. Condiments and sauces can be deceptively high in calories
- Choose leaner protein sources or cuts – these are likely to be higher in protein and lower in fat per portion, so you will be satiated without the additional calories of a higher fat cut. For example, opt for fillet over ribeye steak or tuna steak over salmon
- If you are eating out daily, think ahead and take a look at the menu in advance to help guide you
Consider your options
Go for ‘drier’ dishes such as chicken tikka or better still a chicken shashlick for an additional veg hit. Add a portion of plain rice and you have a great option instead of the more creamier options such as a chicken korma.
Chinese varies massively in calorie and fat content. Anything described as ‘in batter’, ‘fried’ or ‘crispy’ is going to be higher in calories such as spring rolls, sweet & sour chicken balls, crispy beef or fried rice. Leaner choices would include grilled chicken, prawns and boiled rice.
Portion size will also dictate the calorie content so if you do want to go for a sauce-based dish, consider sharing it with your dinner companions alongside your leaner option.
Many decide to opt for a salad in the quest for making a healthier choice, however this might not always be the best option – some salads are as high if not higher in calories than some pizza or pasta options.
Eradicate the idea of labelling foods as good/’clean’ and bad – this isn’t the case and can easily backfire, both in thinking you’re going for the ‘cleanest’ option and in your enjoyment! Think about what actually goes into the food and how it’s cooked. For example a thin crust pizza topped with vegetables might often be your best option, and who doesn’t love pizza?
From a traditional country pub meal to high-end gastro menu – pub food can vary widely. Again, consider the ingredients and all components of the dish, think about how it is cooked and ask for any sauces or dressings to be served on the side.
Rather than deprive yourself, a top tip is to always order a side of vegetables – it’s always better to consider what you can add in to make a meal more nutritious rather than taking things away. This way you are contributing to your fibre intake as well as filling up on more nutritionally dense food so you don’t have to rely on the side of chips served with your meal.
How you approach a meal out is as important as the meal itself if you’re tracking. Plan for it to avoid feeling like you must deprive yourself. Control the things you can in advance – go in hydrated, consider your options but most importantly, if you are heading out for a meal with friends and family occasionally be present and enjoy it!