We’ve all been there before. You’ve stuck to your diet all week, turned down the donuts in the break room, declined going out to lunch with your co-workers. You even turned down Thursday night happy hour so you didn’t miss your gym session. Monday through Friday, you’re killing it! But what do you do when you’re in a situation when you want to, or have to eat out? Here are some quick easy tips for dining out without sacrificing your hard work.
1. Decide how strict you want/have to be BEFORE you go. If you’ve been good all week and want to treat yourself to a meal out with friends, that’s great and you should! If you’re within 4 weeks of a deadline (contest prep, weigh in, competition, event, etc.) you should try to find something that you can work into your day. Maybe this hasn’t been your best week, that’s okay, but decide how flexible you want to be with your food choices before you leave. Once you see that menu it’s going to be important to know exactly where you stand with yourself in terms of dietary strictness and adherence. There is no right answer, only what is best for you.
2. Do your research. If you have time to pick and research restaurants, look up a few different menus and nutrition facts (if listed). This will set you up for success and you’ll be able to know exactly what to plan for that day and how much rearranging needs to happen to your normal diet. Always have a first and second choice in mind in case they run out of a seasonal dish you were hoping for or one cannot be customized.
3. Ask your server if certain items can be cooked to order. With food allergies and intolerances being so common, most restaurants are willing to accommodate dietary restrictions. Don't be afraid to ask your server about substitutions, portion sizes, or cooking preferences.
4. Find a good protein source. Salmon, cod, tilapia, chicken, turkey, and even lean cuts of beef are a great starting place to build your meal. If what you’re looking at is served in a sauce ask to have it seasoned and dry instead to cut down on unnecessary fats.
5. Look at the side choices and pick healthy options. You can get that amazing burger, but ask to substitute vegetables for fries. Bonus points? See if they’ll serve it open face or wrapped in lettuce to cut down on even more carbs. If the restaurant has a salad bar, try substituting that as a side. It may cost a little extra, but it’s a really low calorie option to get you a lot of volume so you’ll feel full and won’t be quite as tempted to swipe a friend’s fries.
6. To drink or not to drink? This is all up to the individual. If you’re going for a cheat meal, by all means, have a drink. If you’re simply giving yourself a little slack to enjoy your weekend but don’t want to stray too far, opt for low calorie options like vodka sodas, antioxidant rich red wine, or a mixed drink using diet soda. If you’re going alcohol free, choose diet soda, seltzer water, or simply drink water.
Dining out while sticking to a diet is as hard or easy as you make it. Planning ahead, customizing your entree, and making smart substitutions allow you to enjoy a meal out without blowing your day. Going out to eat with friends or family is meant to be fun and social, don’t get so caught up in your diet that you can’t enjoy the people you are sharing your meal with.
HYBRID FITNESS RECIPE HIGHLIGHT
ROASTED SPAGHETTI SQUASH "PASTA" WITH CHICKEN AND BROCCOLI
1 Whole Spaghetti Squash
16oz (1lb) Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
4 cups Broccoli Florets
¼ cup lite italian vinaigrette
Pinch of salt and pepper
1tbsp Olive oil
Cut spaghetti squash in half and scoop out. Place halves in a baking dish face up and sprinkle salt and pepper on squash, drizzle olive oil into the center of each squash. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 350 or until squash begins to separate from skin. Cool in fridge for 20 minutes. While spaghetti squash is cooking, cut chicken breasts in half to grill or cut them into strips and cook them in a frying pan. Set aside to cool. Steam broccoli. When the squash is cool take a fork to separate strands into a large bowl, add chicken and broccoli. Toss with Italian Vinaigrette. Serves 4.