Reading time – 5 minute
Words – 2000
Eating out is something that plays a huge part in all of our lives, whether it being socialising, birthdays, work events, it is something that is very hard to avoid, yet many of us try to when going through fat loss phase.
Within this guide I hope to show you how eating out doesn’t have to be avoided, and the steps you will have to take, in order to remain compliant with your day.
- The Approach
- Tips and tricks
- Plan your day AROUND the meal out
- How to track using MyFitnessPal
“OMG, I’m eating out this weekend, what the hell do I do?”
“I’m going out for dinner tonight for my friends birthday, but I’m going to take my own food”
Let’s go into why you shouldn’t have to think like this…
The problem that eating out may cause, is the fact you will have less control over portion size, how it is cooked (Dressing, oils, marinades, sauces etc) and therefore will find it harder to understand the calorie contents of the meal, and more likely to over consume over the course of the day. This being said there are ways of getting around this.
Option 1 – Calorie restriction on the day.
If you want to remain within your calorie allowance on the day, and know for sure the meal out is going to contain a fair chunk of your day, you will HAVE to restrict calories leading up to this.
E.G Total daily intake – 1500kcal
Meal out in the evening 900kcal
Leaving you with 600kcals to play with for breakfast and lunch, so it just meals you will have to either have 2 x 300kcal meals OR just 1 x 600kcal meal.
Let’s say for example you have £10 to live on for the day. If you know for a fact you will be spending £6.50 in the evening, it just means you only have £3.50 to spend through the day leading up to that.
Or, if spending more, you go into debt (Over Consuming calories)
Don’t get into food debt!
Option 2 – Weekly calories
You won’t be losing fat in a single day, so look at your intake on a weekly basis, opposed to a daily one. This will make eating out much easier for you, and leave you less likely likely to screw your week up.
Lets use the example of having a target of 1500 kcal per day, this is what you want to average on a daily basis.
You know on Saturday you are going out to eat, and have planned you will be consuming around 2000 kcal that day.
Rather than eating at 1500 kcal up to that day, then eating 2000kcal and going over your average, just drop your intake leading up to this.
You eat at 1400 kcal Monday – Friday (100kcal less than usual)
Saturday you eat your 2000kcal day, and then Sunday you eat as normal, at 1500kcal.
5 days x 1400 kcal
1 day x 2000 kcal
1 day x 1500kcal
= 1500kcal average.
This is probably one of the best approaches to a meal out, as by having several days of a slightly reduced intake, you won’t really notice the drop in calories, and also, will give you far more flexibility on the day you do eat out. You could always drop you intake by more or less, depending on the severity of the meal out you have.
Tips and Tricks
Most things on the menu when eating out could be factored into your intake by either using option 1, or option 2, however there will always be some tips and tricks you can use, to make keeping within your calories easier.
- Ask how it is cooked – For things like Steak, Chicken breast, Tuna steak, etc, ask how it is cooked to give you an idea of what it may have been cooked in, and whether it will be higher in calories than you first thought.
- Ask for dressing/sauces separate – The last thing you want is to have made a really good choice with the meal you have, then to find out it is covered in a high calorie sauce.
- Try to choose the leaner protein source (from a calorie point of view, these will be much lower) – Choose Chicken breast over Chicken Thigh, Tuna steak over Salmon, Fillet steak over Ribeye.
- Don’t waste calories on drinks – Choose a low calorie Alcoholic drink (Refer to Ultimate guide to Alcohol) Or there’s nothing wrong with sticking to diet coke, or other low calorie soft drinks.
While there is no good or bad food, and the whole day has to be look at to decide whether a meal could be affecting your progress or not, there are definitely things to take into account and look for when eating out.
Let’s take a look into a few different cuisines, and see if there are possibly some better choices to make.
|High calorie density||Low “er” calorie density|
|Chicken Tikka Masala||Chicken Tikka pieces|
|Chicken Korma||Chicken Shashlik|
|Keema Naan||Plain Naan|
|Onion Bhaji||Bombay Potato|
Indian food is typically drowned in oil, butter, Ghee (fat) or cream, and leaves you pretty limited in terms of food choices which won’t be very high in calories.
The lowest calorie, highest protein option would be
Chicken Tikka/Chicken Shashlik with boiled/steamed rice
Chinese is similar to indian in the fact that they fry a lot of their foods in oil, and use very high calorie sauces in some of the dishes. This table comparison should give you some ideas on some better choices you could make.
|High calorie density||Low “er” calorie density|
|Sweet and sour chicken balls||Grilled chicken in black bean sauce|
|Sweet and sour Hong Kong style||Szechuan king prawn|
|Crispy shredded beef||Szechuan Chicken|
|Spring rolls||Chicken Satay|
|Special Fried rice||Boiled Rice|
Most of the high calorie density foods are simply down to the fact they are all fried, or are in batter. This will add a considerable amount of calories to the meal, so choosing a grilled option straight away will reduce the calories contained.
This being said, ultimately the portion size will dictate the calorie contents of meal, so this is something that you will have to pay close attention to as well.
The lowest calorie option would be something like
Szechuan King prawn/Chicken with boiled/steamed rice
|High calorie density||Low “er” calorie density|
|Fish and Chips||Fish Pie|
|Pie and Mash||Shepherd’s pie|
|Burger and Chips||Steak and New potatoes|
|Roast Lamb||Roast Chicken/Turkey|
“Pub food” Is quite a open category, as pretty much anything could fall into it, even some pubs serve curry dishes these days! The typical dishes I have categorized would be likely to be found in your local though.
Many dishes in a pub would be served with some home-made thick cut chips (Yeah you know the ones) and would bump the calorie value of the meal right up, so steering clear of chips would be a good option.
Other fried foods such as fish and chips would look to work its way up close to 1000kcal easily, simply due to the batter on the fish, and fried chips.
Pie and mash, sounds ok right? Pastry is another very high calorie food product, and that will be down to the fat content of it, so again, trying to swerve your Steak and ale pie and buttery mash may be hard, but it may be doing your progress a lot of good avoiding it.
The meal of choice from a calorie point of view would be
Steak and new potatoes with a side salad/vegetables
Try to choose a lean cut such as Fillet or Sirloin (fat removed) and ask for an extra serving of veggies if you’re peckish 😉
Plan your day AROUND the meal out
We’ve all done it before, we get to the restaurant, and with all intentions of “being good” we then see the menu, and it’s a different ball game. All your favourites are on there, the starters looking incredible, the sides you can’t resist, and your all time favourite dessert is screaming at you!
Well you know what happens now, you just let you hair down and have what you want. Now while it can be done on occasions, or every once in a while, if commonly eating out is the case, it probably won’t help you with staying on track.
The most effective way of keeping on track when eating out, is planning the meal BEFORE you get there. Research the menu of the restaurant you’re going to, choose something you like, and you feel would be realistic to fit into your calories for the day, then make your choice. If you know it will be holding quite a few calories, you know to reduce intake down during the day, or if you feel it is quite low calorie dish, you know how to work other meals in around that.
If you have an idea, of what you are going to have, you are more likely to have it, opposed to going in open minded, and trying to resist your favourite dish when you are still unsure of what to have.
How to track on MyFitnessPal
For mainstream restaurants such as Nandos, Pizza Express, Zizzis, etc, the data can be found on My Fitness pal easily, and you can just search and enter the specific meal you are going to have like you would any other food.
“Nando’s Butterfly Chicken Breast”
You may find it spits out several different results, so either use the highest calorie one, or compare the results against the nutritional information on the Nando’s website.
“How can I track a meal when I can’t find the data on My Fitness Pal?”
It’s a common question asked..
Now understandably this will leave you taking your best guess, but a best guess it better than a “I’ll just have what I want as I can’t find the data” approach.
There are 2 ways to track a meal when you don’t have the calorie value to hand.
These would be,
Working to a calorie figure for the meal
Guesstimating individual macros for the meal
You would use a calorie figure if the menu has the calories stated, or you are unaware of the macronutrient value of the meal.
Simply go into your Myfitnesspal food diary as you were going to enter a food, and enter “Calories” then change the serving size to the desired amount you feel the meal would provide.
Note – Due to you simply working off of a calorie figure, this would mean your macronutrient totals (protein, fat and carbs) for the day wouldn’t be accurate.
Working out the macros for the meal would be for those who have an idea how to “eyeball” food and gauge the macro content, or if the macros are stated on the menu/website.
For you to do this, again you would go into your MyfitnessPal diary as you were entering food, and enter,
“Protein” – Then select grams
“Fat” – Then select grams
“Carbohydrate” – Then select grams.
This will give you a better indication of the calorie contents of the meal, and also will allow you to continue working towards your set macro targets for the day.
Note – Understandably, this may not be suited to everyone, as you will require an understanding of macronutrients, and how to visualize them.
How you approach a meal out is as important as the meal out itself. Approaching a meal out by reducing calorie intake the days leading up to the meal, or on the day, can make it far easier to remain compliant with your nutrition targets across a daily, or weekly period
There are some initial tips and tricks that you can use while choosing the meal, to have more control over the calorie contents that it will provide. Some may include, choosing lean proteins opposed to fatty sources, asking for sauces and dressing separately, and limiting alcohol intake with the meal.
While there is no “good” or “bad” food, with every cuisine there will always be better, more sensible options to choose from, that will make keeping on track far more likely.
Plan your day around the meal out. Don’t leave it to chance at the last minute, think about where you are going, what you are going to have, and what you need to do in order to fit that into the day.
There are going to be different methods of tracking a meal out, depending on how in depth you want to be. Using an app such as MyFitnessPal, can be a great way to do so, this can help with taking away the guilt that many of us face after having a meal, as you can adjust your week/day accordingly, and by taking this into account can make eating out far easier.
Eating out, as mentioned plays a big part in our lives and is something that we are going to be faced with on many occasions. If approached carefully and you are aware of how to factor it into your day/week, then it doesn’t have to be avoided. However, due to the lack of control you may face with eating out, it could be affecting your progress if you are not implementing certain principles that are stated within this guide.