Sticking To Nutrition Goals While At A Restaurant

Eating Healthy, Even At A Restaurant

These past few weeks in the Protest Fitness mailing list (sign up at the bottom of the page) we have been discussing how to set up your MyFitnessPal account, how to start tracking your food so that you know exactly what you’re putting into your body, and how to plan around the occasional unhealthy meal.

Now we’re going to talk about what to do when eating out at a restaurant, and I felt like it needed its own post.

First of all, let’s get this out of the way right now – it’s typically cheaper and significantly healthier to prepare food at home. What you should really do is grab your copy of the Protest Fitness Shopping List here:

But whatever, sometimes it’s unavoidable to eat out, or you’re just really dreading cooking. I get it.

Restaurant Food

There’s a reason restaurant food tastes so good… it is because it’s probably absolutely drenched in butter or oil or some unhealthy glaze. Sweet, sweet glaze. Have you ever seen Gordon Ramsay make a burger? He literally bastes a single burger patty with an ENTIRE STICK OF BUTTER. Of course that thing tastes amazing, it doesn’t take a Michelin chef to realize drowning a burger patty in butter will make it good. If you did that at home, however, you probably wouldn’t be able to bring yourself to even take a bite.

When eating out, you need to plan ahead and stick to your guns.

No matter what you eat, you should find it in MyFitnessPal and track it. Most major restaurants have their items in there, but if not then you can probably find a comparable restaurant with a comparable dish. As we learned last week, you want to enter this way before you even get to the restaurant – preferably in the morning. That way you can plan around it with your other meals. As I said before, most restaurant food will have a ridiculous amount of fat in it. This means that you will need to stock up on protein and maybe carbs throughout your other meals in that day.

The Formula

When choosing from the menu, you should be thinking about it like this: You want a protein, a healthy carbohydrate, and a vegetable.

Find something that follows that format. This could be a steak or piece of chicken with rice and a side salad. Or fajitas with a few tortillas and onions/peppers. Or pasta topped with shrimp and spinach. Or pho. Everyone loves pho.

Many restaurants have a “lighter fare” section or some icon denoting a healthier option on their menu. For the most part, you’ll notice that these items follow the above formula. They tend to cut out the extremely unhealthy sauces as well.

At Protest Fitness we also have a specific order we EAT the food in. Just drink a whole cup of water and down all the vegetables right away so that they’re out of the way. Now that you’re no longer starving, sit back and enjoy your protein and your side dish thoroughly with small bites and enjoying your company. This way you won’t eat it all right away and be tempted to order a dessert because you’re still hungry or snack on your spouse’s leftover fries.

Be Strong

Look, I know darn well the internal struggle that goes on when delicious food is in front you and you are trying to avoid it. Your stomach almost always wins.

If you know that there’s no way you’re going to sit there and order a salad and hate your life while your friends are enjoying good food, then just follow a few simple rules:

Avoid appetizers and desert. They cost a lot anyway and won’t serve your goals, period.

Order a protein you love, but make sure it isn’t breaded.

Order a green vegetable of some kind. Side salads are great, “seasonal veggies” sautéed in butter with an aioli dipping sauce aren’t so great.

Try to pick a side carbohydrate that isn’t doused in butter.

Avoid fried foods at all costs – they just aren’t worth it.

At the end of the day, enjoy your food but track it all so that you can make up for lost nutrients elsewhere and understand what you’re eating.