The Ultimate Guide to Eating Out
How do you balance your goals with having a life?!
We totally get it. Social events can be awkward when you're trying to follow a meal plan. Vacations can feel like you just took three steps back from all the progress you've made.
Not to fear, becoming a meal-prepping hermit isn't the answer. With some preparation ahead of time and general guidelines to follow, you can hit your goals while still having a life.
Some general tips:
Be prepared. Know your options ahead of time if you're eating out with friends, see if there are any restaurants or grocery stores near your hotel, or pack your meals to go.
Eat meat, vegetables, and a starch in Phase 1 (palm/handful/fist) portions. No need to add fat, as the food was likely cooked in oil. Fill up on protein and veggies, so that you're less likely to overeat carbs and fat.
Avoid dairy, gluten, and corn where you can, which should be relatively easy at most places. Even things like fries and potato chips are a better option than bread and tortilla chips. Many places offer alternative milks like coconut milk.
Do your best! Keep in mind it's always a good/better/best situation, so make the best choices with what's available.
Eating Out with Friends
An easy way to make sure you're on track is by following the Phase 1 palm/fist/thumb method when eating out with friends. You don't have to get super specific about it, but just be aware of portion sizes and try not to eat to the point where you feel stuffed.
If you have some say in picking the restaurant, check out the menus beforehand and try choosing one with some good options.
- Mexican restaurants: Order taco bowls or fajitas and skip the tortillas and chips.
- Asian restaurants: Order a rice bowl with meat and veggies or sushi. Watch out for soy sauce, as most are wheat-based.
- Italian restaurants: Most Italian restaurants have dishes with fish/meat, rice, and veggies.
- American restaurants: Order a salad or fish/meat with veggie and rice as sides.
You can even eat relatively on plan at places like In'n'Out by ordering a "protein-style" burger (lettuce wrap instead of a bun) or Which Wich? by ordering a Lettucewich. Most places nowadays have some sort of gluten-free option.
Eating with Family
Eating home-cooked meals with your family can be tough when you're eating a certain way. Explain to your family what you're trying to accomplish and why it's important to you. Ask for their support in helping you achieve your goals.
Our families have gotten really good at finding gluten-free recipes (even our past few Thanksgivings have been gluten-free), now ask what foods to stock up on before we visit, and have even started seeing benefits from eating a similar way!
If you don't want to trouble your family with accommodating your dietary restrictions, see if they'd be okay with you bringing some of your own food. Better yet, you can volunteer to cook them foods that fit your meal plan. Googling "paleo" next to a recipe usually results in Adaptive-friendly recipes.
Eating at Events
Many of our clients prefer to eat before they go to an event that they know will have off-plan foods. Others opt to bring their meals in Tupperware to things like their kid's baseball game or other longer events.
It's also a great idea to bring some emergency snacks just in case. Foods like jerky, peanut butter packets, plantain chips, or berries in a Ziploc bag will help avoid hanger, plus you'll feel good afterwards that you were prepared and were able to stay on track.
Eating at Work Events & Meetings + Drinking
If you have a say in what kind of meeting you have with your client or coworker, try scheduling a coffee or even a walk instead of lunch or drinks.
If you do go to a restaurant, check the menu ahead of time. Planning what you'll eat ahead of time will lessen the chance that you'll choose a "not as good" option in the moment.
A lot of client meetings involve drinks. You don't want to look uptight by not joining in, so what do you do? You can say something they can't really argue with, like you're doing a 30-day challenge with your buddies, and there's money at stake! Or, if you think they'll be understanding, you can tell them that you aren't drinking right now, or that you simply don't drink.
If you do drink, your best option is something strong, like a bourbon, that you can sip on and that will lessen the chance of having several drinks. Scotch or a high end tequila (go for Reposado) on the rocks are other good options.
Cocktails: Cocktails often contain the most sugar, so try a clear spirit like vodka or gin mixed with soda water and fresh lemon or lime. Some low-sugar cocktail options include a gimlet, martini, mojito, paloma, old fashioned, and a gin and tonic.
Wine: Drier, less sugary wines include cabernet, pinot noir, merlot, sauvignon blanc, and chardonnay.
Beer: Avoid beer and opt for a cider instead (yes it's got some sugar, but better to avoid the gluten in beer).
Eating While Traveling
If you stay in a hotel, ask for a room with a refrigerator - hotels are required to have them for customers who are diabetic and need to store their insulin. Find a nearby grocery store and stock up on things like:
- Protein: Deli meats, rotisserie chicken
- Starches: Rice cakes, sweet potato chips, plantain chips, oatmeal, berries
- Fats: Peanut butter packets, nuts, olives, avocado
- Veggies: Bags of mixed salad greens, carrots, berries
Hot bars at grocery stores like Whole Foods make it easy to find tasty, on-plan foods that are already cooked.
If you're not able to workout much during your trip, you can limit your carb intake. A half fist or so at each meal should be sufficient.
How to Indulge Without Going Completely Off the Rails
Indulging smartly becomes easier over time. Our treat meals used to be pizza and ice-cream as often as once a week, but over the years they've happened less and less often as we've weaned ourselves off hyper-palatable foods. Although we'll occasionally have those things, more often something as simple as a rice cake (Lundberg's honey nut flavored rice cake is like Honey Nut Cheerios and their cinnamon toast flavor is like Cinnamon Toast Crunch!) with peanut butter and some dark chocolate chips will do the trick.
If you tolerate dairy, Ascent's casein powder that mixes with water to form a pudding is amazing AND healthy.
For desserts, try to find something that's dairy-free and gluten-free. Nowadays there are loads of options (that actually taste good) at Sprouts, Whole Foods, and even Trader Joe's. Better Bites cookie dough bites and cakeballs are free of the top 8 allergens - it's hard to tell because they're so delicious!
One of our best tips to avoid flying off the rails is to simply not have junk food in your house. Many, many calories have been avoided simply because they weren't available to us when the cravings hit.
Basically, do your best to minimize the inflammatory stuff when you go off-plan. There are plenty of ways to satisfyingly indulge - without taking five steps back.
Bottom line: What’s going to make you feel best?
While on vacation or out with friends, it can be easy to go off the rails because hey, you're there to relax and unwind! And while you certainly should feel free to indulge every now and again, try to consider what’s going to leave you feeling your best beyond that moment.
Sometimes the answer will be “Dessert of course!” Other time’s it will be, “Not feeling tired and bloated the rest of the day, and not feeling stressed out when I’m back home about how to lose the 5 pounds I gained on this trip...!”
It’s all about weighing the costs versus the benefits. When you understand how food affects your mood, energy, appearance, and health, you're empowered to make decisions that better balance your goals and your enjoyment.
How do you stay on track when you're eating out? We'd love to hear in the comments below.
Want to know exactly what, when, and how much to eat?
Our meal plan takes your biometrics (gender, age, height, weight, and body fat percentage) and training (intensity, duration, and time of day) into account to provide you with a specific plan to reach your goals.
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