By IFBB Pro Josh Wade
Sponsored by ALLMAX
Healthy eating at restaurants is achievable with a little knowledge and some smart strategies.
In my July 2023 Relentless Pursuit column, I wrote about how to stick to your diet while traveling and eating out, but mostly how to package your food while traveling and portion sizes that will help you attain your goals and stay fit while away from home. That column had such a great response it was suggested for me to do a follow-up on how to substitute or swap out healthier options for the standard menu items while eating out at restaurants, and while this might be common sense to a lot of people, we all forget about these things and they go out the window when we are hungry so like anything in life, if you don’t plan to succeed, then you plan to fail.
Eating out at restaurants can be a delightful experience, allowing us to savor different cuisines and take a break from cooking, or it could just be a necessity while traveling. Either way it could be detrimental to your health and physique goals if you let it, and don’t make conscious choices for healthier options on occasion. I say on occasion because I’ve talked about there is nothing wrong with a cheat meal of whatever you want from time to time, but by consistently eating out and not making better food choices, there is no way you will attain your physique goals. With tempting menus and larger portion sizes, it’s easy to go overboard on calories and unhealthy ingredients while eating out so it’s always advised to cook your own meals and pack them for travel, but I know that’s not always possible and healthy eating at restaurants is achievable with a little knowledge and some smart strategies. Here are some tips to help you make better choices while dining out.
If possible, review the restaurant’s menu online before your visit and look for options that include lean proteins like grilled chicken or fish, vegetables, and whole grains. Look for grilled, boiled, baked, or steamed dishes whenever possible as these methods of cooking minimize the use of added oils, butters, or breading. Avoid fried, breaded, or sautéed items that are full of unhealthy fats. Most restaurants offer brown rice now but there’s nothing wrong with white rice either, especially when having it with protein and vegetables and it’s a lot less calories than french fries. When you research in advance you can narrow down healthier choices in advance, making it easier to resist the less healthy options when you arrive at the restaurant.
Control your portions.
Restaurant portion sizes are often larger than what we need or what might be on your plan. Like I mentioned in the prior column, a standard portion for men would be around 6 ounces of cooked lean meat and around 1 cup (150g) cooked rice (around 400 calories for the meal) and a female portion would be almost half of that, between 3-4 ounces of lean meat and ½ cup (75g) cooked rice and of course veggies (around 225-275 calories for the meal). One way to combat the larger-than-needed portions is to split a dish with a friend or family member or even ask the server to pack half of your meal in a to-go box before it even arrives at your table. This way, you might have a more properly sized portion on your plate, reducing the temptation to overeat.
Choose quality over quantity.
Instead of filling up on empty calories from appetizers and bread baskets, focus on quality main courses talked about above. Skip the deep-fried mozzarella sticks and go with a salad with lean protein or a bowl of vegetable soup to minimize overeating when your entrée comes. Prioritizing nutrient-dense options will help you stay satisfied with wholesome ingredients instead of empty calories. Restaurants are often willing to accommodate your diet preferences, so don’t be afraid to ask for steamed vegetables or a salad instead of home fries or french fries. One big thing for portion and calorie control is to ask for dressings and sauces on the side so you can control the amount you consume. Some simple substitutions can make a huge difference.
Again I want to make clear that a cheat meal of whatever you want on occasion will not sabotage your physique or fitness goals, but constantly eating restaurant food haphazardly most definitely will have a negative effect on your physique and health – so when traveling or having to constantly eat out, reach for a healthier option which will be better on digestion, calories and the goal of staying in shape while away from home and the convenience of being in 100% control of your diet!
I hear from a lot of people that they are scared to travel with protein powders because they think TSA will take their powders, but they won’t; I’ve traveled for years with my protein powders without a problem. So, packing some Allmax Nutrition Hexapro or Isoflex is a great in between-meal snack and add a piece of fruit for a convenient and healthy meal. Remember it’s the choices you make that will make or break you and with some effort, I’ve had many clients lose weight or maintain while traveling and even on vacation following these methods – so no excuses, get out there and make a change!
I listed a bunch of ways to think about what to order for a healthier meal out and nowadays, most restaurants have a lite calorie menu like The Cheesecake Factory’s SkinnyLicious menu for starters, salads, and even entrées all 590 calories or less and can even be reduced like I talked about by splitting the portion and asking for sauces and dressings on the side to use a lesser amount.
Breakfast. Instead of a standard 3 whole-egg omelet with meat and cheese cooked in oil or butter, ask for an egg white veggie omelet with no cheese cooked without butter or oil with a side of salsa to put on top and veggies on the side instead of hash browns or home fries.
Lunch. Reduce the carbs down by not having a burger or sandwich with fries and instead get a salad with lean protein and again, ask for the meat to not be booked in butter or oil and dressing on the side to minimize the amount you use like mentioned above.
Dinner. This might be the toughest time to resist ordering a big entrée but it’s easily the most important, as intaking a tremendous number of calories before bed will not be burned off therefore it would be more likely to be stored as body fat. It’s also the easiest to make healthier choices as like I stated, most menus have a low-calorie entrée option if you look for it. Go with grilled, boiled, or baked protein instead of one cooked in oils or butter and avoid the potatoes and go with the steamed vegetable option.
A simple tip that most people know but don’t often think about is sometimes hunger is a sign of dehydration so make sure your stomach is full of water to minimize overeating.
I really hope this helps and allows you to think about healthier options when in a pinch.
For questions to be answered in my column or coaching inquiries, please email me at email@example.com
1 scoop Impact Pump (helps increase blood flow and transportation of nutrients while significantly helping the focus for mind-muscle connection)
1 scoop Aminocore (prevents muscle tissue breakdown during training)
10g Glutamine (helps with DOMS, insulin sensitivity, gut health, and immune system)
5g Creatine (for that fast-acting, explosive power needed to push weights and helps with muscle hydration)
1 scoop Carbion (50g carbs) (really helps with energy and endurance during workout by giving your body carbs that don’t have to be digested, therefore they are readily available for fuel)
2 scoops IsoFlex (fast-digesting protein with essential amino acids to start the building or repairing process immediately)
10g Glutamine again (helps with DOMS, insulin sensitivity, gut health and immune system)
Give these a try and I can guarantee your energy, intensity and pumps will dramatically increase in the gym.
For more information, visit allmaxnutrition.com
Learn more about Josh Wade at https://allmaxnutrition.com/pages/josh-wade