For 4 years when I worked as an investment analyst in New York City, I didn’t step into the grocery store once. I’m not exaggerating. The grocery store was actually around the corner from my apartment like a block away and I had no idea it even existed. I ordered in, ate out, or picked up every single meal I ate.
It’s not easy to avoid disaster when eating out, or ordering in from restaurants, but it can be done. In fact, you can still get a leaner body even if you eat out all the time.
The 3 keys when it comes to eating out in my humble opinion are: (1) portion control, (2) preparation, and (3) customization. I’m assuming you understand what constitutes healthy food vs. unhealthy food and nutritional balance. If you don’t, you should check out: Best Nutrition Guide You Don’t Know About: Harvard Healthy Eating Pyramid.
1) Portion Control
Most restaurants are going to serve you way more food than you need. We’re in America, the land of big everything, which is reflected in portion sizes. Even if it’s a healthier meal, you’ll probably be served HUGE portions.
Contrary to what your parents may have told you growing up, you should think twice before cleaning your plate when eating out. Eat only until you are satisfied, NOT full. I encourage you to leave some leftovers so you can eat it as a snack the next day. Remember, overeating at any meal makes it easier for your body to store fat, plus you’ll feel sapped of energy afterward.
Preparation is a bit trickier, because you can eat thousands of calories without knowing it. I didn’t realize chicken cutlets were deep-fried until after college when I became the owner of an incredibly expanding waist. Another big issue with going to restaurants is ordering foods that are sautéed in oil, butter, or other calorically dense fat.
For example, 3 tablespoons of butter is 330 calories., which can easily be soaked into a chicken breast, or some fish. It’s a frustrating feeling eating a thousand calories worth of food and your hunger is still not satisfied. The best way for food to be prepared is grilled, baked, or steamed. Can you avoid calorically dense food every time you go out? Maybe not, but I just want to make you aware of it.
Customization can be summed up by the following advice: always create your own meals. If we ever grab lunch together, the chances are roughly 97% I’m going to customize my meal. The most common trap to look out for is that entrées may come with sides that we want to avoid like French fries, chips, onion rings etc.
Please don’t accept eating awful food just because a meal comes with it! Instead, ask for salad, rice (even white rice is better than fries for sure), corn, or any other wholesome, natural foods that are offered. In addition, I always ask for a wheat wrap, or wheat/multigrain bread if something comes with bread.
Be different. Be bold. Customize your meals. I think this is the most important tip of all.
If you keep these 3 keys in mind, you will successfully avoid the treacherous, waist expanding pitfalls of eating out at restaurants.
P.S. I realize I didn’t list every tip, so if you have any other tips that have helped you, please leave a comment below. Also, if you have any questions about eating out, I’m happy to help!