Whatever you’re working towards, be it fat loss, muscle gain, or increased performance, diet is important. While the amount of calories you eat, and your macronutrient percentages (the number of proteins, carbohydrates and fats) you consume will vary depending on your goals, body composition, genetics, and a host of other factors, one thing that doesn’t change is the type of foods you should be eating.
The majority of your diet should be composed of nutrient-dense whole foods. This means unprocessed, natural foods that are packed full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and contain little or no processed ingredients.
When cooking for yourself, it’s easy to make sure your diet is up to scratch, but when you eat out, this can become a whole lot more difficult.
Follow these simple tips for sticking to a healthy diet when eating out, no matter where you are.
Choosing Where To Go
You may or may not have a choice over where you go to eat out. If it’s a case of just going for a meal with friends, or going to a restaurant because you don’t want to cook for the night, then there are plenty of good choices you can make. A steak house is your best bet, as you can guarantee to get an excellent choice of protein packed steaks. A good quality sirloin, T bone or fillet delivers a huge whack of protein, along with some good quality animal fats to help boost hormone production and cell growth. Get your steak with a salad or some veggies of you’re trying to lose weight, or a baked potato or sweet potato if you’re building muscle.
Other good choices include Italian restaurants, where a salad or meat dish will always be available; seafood restaurants for oily fish or shellfish; or Mexican restaurants, where there are always ample amounts of meat and vegetable based dishes on offer.
When you’ve got freedom of choice over your dining destination, there’s no excuse not to eat healthy – you know what foods are good for you, and what aren’t, so pick somewhere with diet-friendly choices, and you’ll be fine.
However, when you don’t have a choice of where to eat, it can be trickier. Here are some guidelines to make it easier:
Make this rule number one! Protein is vital for muscle growth, recovery, hormone production and metabolism regulation. Meat, fish, eggs and dairy products are your best choices, and no matter where you go, you’ll be able to find these on the menu. You might run into difficulty in vegan or vegetarian restaurants, but you can still go for a higher protein dish, by choosing something with beans, lentils, pulses or a vegan protein source like tempeh or buckwheat.
Whatever you eat should come with a tonne of veggies. Vegetables contain powerful antioxidants that help fight stress, reduce inflammation and repair cells. They’re also packed full of fiber, low calorie and extremely filling. If your meal doesn’t come with vegetables, order a side salad.
Sauces on the Side
Always ask for sauces on the side, then you can choose whether to have it or not. Olive oil based dressing should be fine, along with hot sauces, and tomato ones, but watch out for mayonnaise and cream based dressings, and sweet sugary ones.
Carbs or no Carbs
If you’re dieting, skip the starchy carbs. If you’re building muscle though, or have just finished a workout, get a small serving of unrefined carbs, such as rice, potatoes, beans or fruit.
State Your preference
Restaurants are there to serve you, so if you want something done to your dietary preferences, just ask for it – you’re a paying customer after all! So don’t be afraid to ask for your meat to be grilled instead of fried, to swap your fries for salad, or to adjust portion sizes.
Stick to these rules, and eating out can still be an enjoyable experience, but won’t wreck your diet.