Do you find it difficult eating out? Not sure how to make a meal on the menu healthy, or not sure what options are best to fit macronutrient targets for the day? These kinds of questions are typical for those invested in their health and fitness. And there is no reason to have anxieties around food when you eat out. It is normal to question the content of foods when at restaurants, because in order to make things rich and delicious, additional oils, sauces and butters are used. Because of this, eating out on a regular basis can stall progress results, but there is a way to get around it – especially if you like to grab food on the go. So, how do you go about trying to reduce caloric intake, or try to work out the macronutrient breakdown of foods?
Break it down
Let's firstly take a look at doing the breakdown approach. For those counting macronutrients with tools such as My Fitness Pal, this is a great option to help you keep accountable during the day. Let's assume you are already tracking your macros. Our suggestion, is that if you know you are eating out, you should preview a menu to see what options there are, or, if you know what kind of meal you will be having that day – track it first! By tracking first, you can determine how much of this meal will account for your daily macro intakes. You can then plan other food options around that meal. It will also help to keep you more accountable with the meal you are eating out. In order to break something down, you must look at the plate of food as protein, fats and carbs. Let's assume the meal out is brunch and you get avocado toast with an egg.
To break this down, first you must input the protein sources of the meal– here, it is the egg. Next, you input fats – estimate at least half to a whole avocado for the smash, and potentially 1-2 tbsp olive oil mixed in. Lastly, estimate carbs from a generic source in MFP, eg 2x slices sourdough. This is the basics. If there is cheese, seeds or other vegetables included on the plate, these are to be added in too. What you do need to also consider, is additional 'hidden' fats and carbs in meals. Things like bottled lemon juice, sauces, and oils may be included in meals. Some places drizzle extra oil on top of eggs, and dishes, and some places spread butter on toast. These kind of things add additional calories to a meal, and will increase the grams and total daily intake of either proteins, fats or carbs. We suggest asking wait staff to ensure there is no extra oil, butter or seeds added. For other meals, the same can be said for wanting to put dressings of salads etc on the side – dressings can be worth 300calories themselves, so having it to the sides mean you can monitor the amount you use.
If you are not tracking macros, but need help to make things healthier when you're out, then keep reading. We strongly suggest you ask wait staff to put all dressings on the sides. With things like yoghurt and granola bowls, keep all milks, nuts and honey to the side too. This makes it easier to see how much you are actually using or adding to your meal. When selecting things at restaurants, opt for meals with a selection of vegetables, or add steamed vegetables to whatever your main dish is – replace fried chips with salad (dressing on the side), and remove additional slices of cheese, sauces and mayonaise from burgers or sandwiches. We recommend getting meals that have a good source of lean protein, like steak, chicken breast, turkey or lean beef. A meal should include a small amount of healthy fat either coming from the protein source, or additional fats like avocado, eggs, and nuts. Try avoid high content fat foods such as things deep fried or smothered in sauce and oil. Choose things like rice paper rolls over spring rolls, and pick tomatoe based sauces over white sauce dishes. The meal should also consist of a group of carbs and a side of vegetables, steamed, if possible. Carbs can be from things like wholegrain bread, potatoes and beans. Try avoid overloading on sugary or white processed carbs like pasta in white sauce lots of white noodles or fries. Of course, every now and then, ensure you enjoy a balanced iet and eating out – but if you eat out more than once a week, these tips will help you stay on track and keep you opting for the healthiest choice.