Following a body transformation nutrition program doesn't mean you have to stop going out and socialising completely.
Trying to stick to a diet plan with a social dining occasion on the horizon can be a stressful experience and sometimes simply avoiding it can seem like the easiest option.
However, feeling included and spending time with your friends and family is incredibly important when dieting and avoiding social occasions for fear of falling off the wagon is an unnecessary worry.
Here are my six top rules to follow that will help you make good choices when eating out:
1. Prepare in advance
The first thing you need to do is a little bit of research. If the restaurant has already been predetermined, then simply head online and hunt down the menu to get started on choosing what would be the best option for you.
Giving yourself plenty of time beforehand, when you’re not hungry, and you don’t have the pressure of your friends telling you not to worry, will ensure that you make a good decision about what to order. You could even send the menu to your Personal Trainer/ Nutritionist if you are unsure.
If the menu is not available, or changes regularly, consider ringing up the restaurant and speaking to somebody about your dietary requirements. Don’t expect the person on the other end of the phone to understand your desire for 35g of protein and 20g of fat but do explain that you are looking for something minimally processed and give them an idea of what you usually eat.
Any good restaurant should be able to make some recommendations based on this, and they will no doubt appreciate knowing they have a more ‘picky’ customer on their booking list.
2. Say 'no' to extras
If a meal is described as ‘saucy’, ‘creamy’ or ‘fried’, avoid it. Likewise, anything that comes piled high with extras, simply ask for yours without. If you want a steak and vegetables, but the steak on the menu comes with onion rings, fries and coleslaw - communicate with your server.
Most restaurants will be more than happy to oblige and substitute one food for another, and if you are very concerned about your options, call ahead and discuss with the chef what can be prepared for you.
The same can be said for salad dressings; ask for it on the side or none at all. You can then control how much you allow on your dinner (believe me, some chefs are generous with dressings, oils and butter).
3. Choose what you're familiar with
You also need to consider the time of day you will be eating and which meal from your diet you will be replacing at the restaurant.
By selecting something close to what you would usually eat, you should also be familiar with the ideal portion size - despite potentially not knowing the exact macronutrient breakdown of the meal.
Ordering a 12 oz steak when you are used to eating just a palm-sized portion will mean over-consumption of calories, so either select a more appropriate size or simply leave what you know to be excess.
4. Order a side of vegetables or salad
Check out the sides menu to see whether there is an option for fresh vegetables or a side salad. Skip the starter and load up on your greens. This will help to fill you up and it will give you the impression that you are eating a lot more when two plates come out instead of one.
5. Choose sparkling water (with a twist)
If tap water is a bore and everybody is having a glass of something stronger, order a refreshing sparkling water and a slice of lemon or lime. Often, we succumb to peer pressure when we are out as we feel left out and limited to ‘boring’ choices. So order yourself a soft drink that you enjoy and you won’t even notice what’s in your glass (and neither will your friends).
6. Make sure your meal is high protein
Keep your meal choice based on a high-protein portion of high-quality meat and a selection of vegetables. If you are a vegetarian, stick to a meal based on high protein sources, such as pulses or tofu. A good go-to choice for meat-eaters would be a steak (you can choose your size based on what you would usually have), with mushrooms, tomatoes and a side of green vegetables or salad.
A chicken breast salad with dressing on the side is also a common option on most menus; that is usually a safe choice.
Sticking to your food and nutrition goals doesn’t have to be difficult; just follow these guidelines and you can enjoy the company of your friends and family, without the expanding waistline.
Your discipline and willpower will only get you so far, be prepared for temptation and stick to what you know.