I’ve been asked quite a lot by my clients in the last few weeks of what they should do if they are going out on say a business lunch, or out to dinner or they have been invited to a party, a wedding, etc etc. How on earth do you track their calories or macros in a situation like this? Do you try and figure it out without knowing for sure what is in the food? Or do you just enjoy the night out, forget about tracking, and then start again the next day?
As with most things in life, the answer lies somewhere in the middle.
Here are my top tips for navigating this situation.
If you are one of my clients, or you are quite aware of food and nutrition & maybe even in the habit of tracking your macros, you would have had enough experience with your macros and calories to know around about how much you should be eating.
In a situation like a dinner out, a good idea is to simply have a set of rules that you always follow that will keep your eating in check.
-Eat a “reasonably balanced” entree with a solid serving of protein (i.e. go for the prawns instead of the deep fried dumplings)
-Stay away from excessive alcohol
-Eat slowly, chew your food don’t stuff yourself to the brim with dessert J
Remember, it doesn’t really matter what the rules are, just that they make sense for preventing you from going overboard.
Maybe you end up 237 calories over or 148 calories under for the day every once in a while when you hit up a restaurant. But that’s okay. It’s close enough and not going to break your diet. Remember an isolated dietary mistake or incident doesn’t mean anything over the long run, as long as you can get back to your routine as soon as possible.
It’s important to stay flexible with your diet while keeping on track as best as possible, because sometimes life just gets in the way and you still want to be able to have fun, and be able to handle real life situations like a dinner get together.
One of my all time favourite tips is to save the bulk of your calories for dinner if you are going to go all out, i.e. you are all going to Brazilian BBQ for dinner, for example. You can do this with macros too. For example, if you are having pizzas for dinner, then knowing that you will be obviously eating a lot of carbs, you could save most of your carbs for dinner, and stay with protein and good fats the rest of the day.
Point being, keeping your calories in check over the long run is 95% of the battle. If you’ve got that handled, you’ll be fine. The macro ratio or calories being slightly off here or there doesn’t matter too much. Having a system that you *know* can accommodate for the occasional restaurant meal is by far the most important thing, both for your results and your sanity.
This is especially true if you are trying to cut or lose weight. When you eat out the meals that contain high carbs + high fats (i.e. fettuccine) would also be the highest in calories. If you are going to go high fat (i.e. grilled salmon with avocado salsa), then it would be better to stay low on the carbs and vise versa.
If you are going out for a “big night” it’s better not to mix your alcohol drinking with fat or carbohydrates. But lean more towards the meat platter. When you drink alcohol, your body stops processing food, stores everything as fat and tries to rid your body of the booze. Protein can't be stored as fat, so feel free to eat lean meats, fish (not breaded, no tartar or heavy sauces), etc. before and during...
Of course I think you should order whatever the hell you want to order. I’m not going to be a food police :) But just try to estimate the macros if you think you can. If you can’t, don’t worry too much about that.
In saying that, following are a few “safe” options if you are worried, brand new to all of this, or if you aren’t sure what to order.
Something that makes it easy is to order a meal that has its ingredients separate rather than mixed together. (i.e. if you get a steak + steamed potatoes and vegetables rather than a chicken & mushroom risotto or grilled Thai beef + rice and salad rather than a Pad-thai).
Here are some other options that could be good:
-Salad with Grilled Chicken (watch the “extras” like nuts and dressing)
-Salad with Grilled prawn
-Salad with Game Meat
-Ham and veggie Omelette
-Grilled Chicken Sandwich (watch the “extras”)
-Grilled fish with potatoes and veggies
-Steak or game meat with roast potatoes and veggies
-Obviously this is not a comprehensive list, but I wanted to give you a few ideas.
Something that is good to be aware of are the extras like sauces, dips, & other foods that can pack a big punch of calories in a small amount and it’s super easy to eat them without realising how many calories (often times fat in this case) are in them.
Some of the following foods have a calorie density that might creep up and blow your macros wide open, so either avoid them if needed, or make an educated decision regarding eating them:
Breading on meats/chicken
Sometimes the mental exhaustion of tracking is a bit overwhelming & I think everyone deserves a night off once in a while. Just remember that moderation is key and let yourself relax a bit and enjoy yourself. I probably wouldn’t do this often if your goal is fat loss, or in the beginning of your fat loss plan (where you are trying to build good habits), but after that you can relax a bit. Having an off night or two per month makes dieting more sustainable in the long run.
All in all, just remember, plan ahead if you are going out to a restaurant or a party etc. Think about what you might be eating that night, and save some carbs and fats for your meal.
And most of all, strive for consistency not perfection. For success with your diet, it’s is about consistently being pretty close, avoiding too blow up days, and being patient.
If you stuff up one day, just remember it’s only one day. One day or one stuff-up is not going to make or break your diet’s success. It’s what you do the other 95% of the time that matters.
And if you are going out or to a social event, just minimise damage as best as possible. And get right back on track as soon as you can.
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