By Tara Ballard
Tell me if this sounds familiar: you’re going along being a good little fat loss lifestyle follower…prepping meals, eating lean protein and veggies, making sure you eat every 3 hours or so, always keeping a protein bar or something similar on-hand for emergencies, etc….when the unthinkable happens. You are (GASP) invited out to eat!!! And on a non-cheat meal day no less!! You start freaking out a bit because you don’t want to sabotage your fat loss efforts, but you’ve already turned down several invitations and you don’t want your friends to think you have become a hermit. I say all of this somewhat in jest, but I remember feeling this way when I first starting living the fat loss lifestyle. I used to think there was no way I could stick to my normal way of eating if I ventured outside my safe bubble, a place where I controlled exactly what my meals consisted of. At some point I realized, however, that I couldn’t live in my bubble forever, especially if I wanted to have any kind of social life – ha!
Enter one of the mantras from Metabolic Effect: Fat Loss Happens Anywhere – meaning you can eat for fat loss virtually anywhere, it is all about making the right choices.
I will admit, it took me awhile to embrace this because it required giving up a little bit of control (did I mention I’m very much a Type A personality?), but once I put the following things into practice, I began to look forward to eating out.
Before getting into the nitty gritty of how and what to order for fat loss in a restaurant, I first want to explain some preliminary steps I take when I know I’m going to be eating out:
- First, I make a clear and conscious choice to stick to my fat loss lifestyle no matter what my friends order or what the menu would presumably dictate that I order (i.e., I’m at a Mexican place so I should eat chips, order a big burrito with beans, etc.). This is probably the most important point, and it begins before you even get to the restaurant. Anticipate that your friends are not going to be eating for fat loss, but that doesn’t mean you have to do that as well.
- If I know which restaurant I will be eating at, I’ll look at their menu online and see what the options are. If I know ahead of time what is on the menu, it helps solidify my choice to stick to my plan.
- I visualize how good I will feel after having stuck to my plan. Visualization is such an important part of this lifestyle. Another tenet of Metabolic Effect is the concept of Be-Do-Have. If you want to be a lean person, than you need to be like a lean person now, and do the things a lean person would do so that you can have the lean physique you desire. When I feel tempted to stray from my choices, I remember the Be-Do-Have.
So, now that you have the mental aspects in check, how do you stick to the Fat Loss Lifestyle (FLL) while eating out? It’s pretty simple actually. Here are a few fat loss “rules” to remember:
- Lean protein and green veggies first, starches last (a few bites if you’re going to have starch)
- Fat trumps carbs every time – so if you have the choice between a fattier cut of meat/poultry or a pasta dish, go with the fattier cut of meat/poultry
- Alcohol combined with fat and starchy carbs is a fat loss nightmare. If you’re going to have alcohol, then stick to lean protein and green veggies as your meal, and limit the alcohol to one glass of wine or vodka/soda.
Here are options for ordering at various types of restaurants:
- Steakhouse (Outback, Longhorn, etc.): this is probably one of the easiest places to eat for fat loss. Most places will offer lean cuts of beef (sirloin, filet, etc.), chicken and/or fish. Any of those is a good choice, along with steamed green veggies and a side salad. I will usually ask the server to hold the croutons on the salad, and get a vinaigrette dressing on the side.
- Mexican: fajitas without the tortilla (I like to ask for double protein) or a taco salad without the shell (ask for no sour cream and beans, and go light on the cheese)
- Italian (Carrabba’s, Romano’s Mozzarella Grille, Olive Garden): obviously pasta is not going to be your best option here, so stick to salads, and whatever grilled protein options are available (most places will have fish, chicken and beef available)
- American (Ruby Tuesday, American Grill, Applebee’s, Chili’s, etc.): these places usually all have a decent salad selection, so a good option would be a grilled chicken salad (again, I ask for double protein) with dressing on the side. The key on these types of salads is the watch the toppings. Croutons, crunchy noodles, etc. are things that I like to nix. These places usually have steak, chicken and fish as well; don’t be afraid to ask for a plain grilled option if it isn’t on the menu – most places are happy to accommodate.
- Asian: Opt for protein/veggie intensive meals and several bites of brown rice (or skip the rice altogether). Most places will steam entrees and place any sauces on the side if you ask.
- Burger joint (Five Guys): yes, you can eat for fat loss here!! Order your burger with extra lettuce and tomato, remove the bun, and eat your makeshift salad J
- Fast food (McDonald’s, Wendy’s, etc.): again, remove the bun from burgers and grilled chicken sandwiches and eat with extra lettuce/tomato. Most fast food places offer salad options, so that is always a good choice.
A note about sodium: if you’ve been leading the FLL for any length of time, then your typical meals are probably low in sodium. Restaurants typically go way overboard with seasonings/salt, so I usually ask them to hold the seasonings if possible. I sometimes forget, so I make sure that I drink a ton of water during and after dinner to negate the sodium bloat J.
Hopefully these tips will help you – and remember, the fat loss lifestyle is about balance, NOT all-or-nothing. There is nothing wrong with NOT sticking to your plan – be gentle with yourself if that happens, and get right back on the wagon the next meal!