7 Tips to Restaurant Eating – Without Regret

Have you ever gone to a nice restaurant, sat down, had an amazingly delicious meal, and then went home feeling stuffed regretting your poor decision for the rest of the day?  We’ve all been there.  We swear we’ll never do it again, and that will stick to healthier options the next time.  Well, that nasty cycle has a tendency of repeating itself.  So, what can you do to stop feeling lethargic and bloated, and avoid the same situation at the next restaurant? That’s exactly what we are going to discuss in this article.

First and foremost, we strongly believe that “diets” don’t work—replacing the “quick fix” mentality with a major lifestyle change is ultimately the best way to produce favorable results.  You can have your cake and ice cream, but know that something else is going to need to be cut out in order for you to have your treats.  And while we don’t recommend having “unhealthy” food choices all the time, we believe in the mantra “everything in moderation”.  So, how can you go out to eat, get what you want, but not feel defeated as soon as you stand up from the table?

1. Know the menu before you get there
Think of this like going to war against the battle of the bulge—you want to have a game plan before you step out onto the battlefield, right? Think of your nutrition the same way! Go online and look at their menu so you have an idea of what food choices they have and what you plan on ordering. What sides come with the meal? Can you get steamed vegetables? How about a side salad? What lean protein sources do they have?

If you know what you are getting before you walk through the door, it will prevent your stomach from making your meal choice rather than your brain. It’s the same reason you don’t go to the grocery store when you’re hungry—you’ll leave with heavy bags of foods you shouldn’t be eating and a lighter wallet.

2. Know that you DON’T need to eat the full meal at one sitting
You do know that when they put the food down in front of you that it’s not a requirement to eat the entire thing, right? What many people fail to realize is that the portion size you receive when you eat at a restaurant is MUCH larger than what a normal serving size should look like. Even that 12+ ounce steak you ordered is around double the amount you truly need for one sitting!

What we strongly recommend you consider is asking for a to-go box as soon as your meal comes out—take everything on your plate and put half of it in the to-go box for another meal. This allows you to have a delicious meal out, but then have a second opportunity to fall in love all over again with your dish at home. When you think about this from a financial point of view, you got two meals basically for the price of one – WINNING! On top of it, you were able to have an amazing experience at a fabulous restaurant while still keeping your health and fitness goals in mind.

3. Know how your food is prepared
Here is where the wheels can potentially fall off—ALWAYS ask how your food is prepared! Just because you ordered the steak and broccoli doesn’t mean you’re not adding an additional 500+ calories without even taking in additional food. So, where are these extra calories coming from? Butter and oils.

When you order your food (let’s just use the steak and broccoli example from above for consistency sake), ask them how the steak is prepared or simply ask them to grill it without any butter or oil. The same with the broccoli. They might tell you it’s steamed broccoli, but to make it taste better they load on the butter—adding to your total calorie count without you really even noticing. Ask them to steam your broccoli without the addition of any kinds of butter—you want it plain.

Don’t feel bad asking for your food to be prepared in a certain way. I’ve been in groups where people have said: “I didn’t want to sound like a pain and make things harder for the waitress and chef, so I’ll just eat my food the way it comes out.” Here’s my philosophy… you’re going out to eat at a nice restaurant and you want your food to be made how you like it— you’re the one paying for the meal, so get it exactly how you want it.

4. Know your calories and macros for the day
If you know you’re going out to eat and will enjoy yourself later in the day, make sure you go lighter on your portions earlier in the day to save up. If you’re using something like MyFitnessPal for tracking your meals, you’re already ahead of the game and have an idea of the macros that you have to work with for the day. This also allows you to play with your food choices while at the restaurant as well.

If you combine this with #1 on our list, you truly have no reason to blow your nutrition at a restaurant and fall off the wagon. Tracking your meals is the best way to ensure you are in a caloric deficit when trying to lose weight and reduce body fat.

5. Know the calories and macros for your restaurant meal
This tip also ties into #1 in that when you are looking at the menu to figure out what you want to order when you get to the restaurant, try to check the calories and macros to make sure they align with your goals/daily intake. If not, either look for something different, or make some substitutions with the meal. If the meal comes with pasta but you don’t want the added starches and carbs, ask to substitute it for a side salad, some steamed vegetables, or any other option that better suits your wants and needs.

As mentioned above, if you’re using something like MyFitnessPal, you can more than likely plug your meal into your app before even getting to the restaurant to see where the meal lands you afterward. Many restaurants are already in the MyFitnessPal database. Again, if you’re ordering a large meal, input half of the meal if you plan on taking the other half home with you to eat the next day.

6. Fit in a workout the day you plan on eating at a restaurant
Want to free up some calories so you can enjoy yourself at the restaurant? Hit a workout early in the day! Something that involves both cardio and weight training would be advised. The cardio will help burn calories while the weight training will keep your metabolism revving for hours following the workout, helping the muscles themselves better utilize the food you consumer later in the day.

Did you get too caught up in the day and miss your workout before heading to the restaurant? No worries, you can always do an afternoon or evening session, or even go for a walk when you return home.

7. Limit your liquid calories
We aren’t the party police, but consuming alcohol (even in moderation) can considerably increase your overall caloric intake for the day. If you would like to enjoy one or two drinks, so be it—everything in moderation. However, be aware that liquid calories will sneak up on you. Overconsumption can cause you to go severely over your caloric target for the day.

Regular soda should be eliminated from your nutrition, or at least limited to very rare occasions. The sugar content in soda is extremely high, and the added calories add up quick. Not to mention that soda induces the sensation of hunger which is counterproductive towards your goals.

If you are going out, we would recommend consuming water or a zero-calorie/low-calorie beverage like an unsweetened tea. Add a little lemon to your water or unsweetened tea to enhance the flavor and you are good to go!

About the Author: Matt Weik

Matt Weik is the Owner of Weik Fitness, LLC and is a well-respected fitness expert/author with a global following. He’s a certified strength and conditioning specialist, personal trainer, and sports nutritionist. His work has been featured in over 85 fitness magazines and over 2,000 websites. Learn more or contact him at weikfitness.com

Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice, nor is it to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your physician before starting or changing your diet or exercise program. Any use of this information is at the sole discretion and responsibility of the user.