Eating out at restaurants doesn't have to derail your healthy eating habits. Here's how to enjoy a night out with friends without any guilt the next day.
We've said it before, and we'll say it again: Your healthy and fitness journey is really more about a lifestyle change. It's not a diet or a short-term fix — and it shouldn't put a damper on your social life. So what happens on date night or when you want to go to dinner with friends?
Don't panic! Eating out while watching your diet can be tricky, but with a little preparation, you can navigate the treacherous waters of temptation without doing serious damage.
4 Tips for Planning Your Dinner Out
One of the best things you can do if you want to stay on track while eating at restaurants is to make a plan. You're much more likely to order the double cheeseburger or fettuccini alfredo if you're blindsided by an unfamiliar menu while trying to hold a conversation with your dining companions. Here are some ideas:
- Select a restaurant with healthy menu options. (If that's within your control, of course.) Pro tip: The MyPlate calorie tracking app already has a lot of healthy chain restaurant foods in its database, so you can even pre-track your calories as well as how to eat healthy before and after your big meal out.
- Check out the menu online and decide what you'll order before you get there. Most restaurants have the allergen and nutrition information available too, so you can make the most informed decision possible.
- Want an appetizer, entree and dessert? Adjust your calories for the rest of the day accordingly, so you don't exceed your limit and you still make sure to hit your macros and veggie intake.
- Do your workout ahead of time. You likely won't feel like it after eating out, plus you'll remember exactly how much work burning 100 calories required.
Read more: 8 Chefs Who Will Transform the Way You Eat
7 Ways to Eat Healthy On the Go
Alright, so you made last-minute plans and don't have time to plan your meal. Or you just need to run out and grab lunch. If you don't have time to strategize, don't worry. These tips will help you eat out without derailing your progress.
- Avoid alcohol, juices and sodas. Stick with water, unsweetened teas or drinks without added sugars.
- Practice portion control. Eat half of your entree and ask for a to-go bag for the rest.
- Start with soup or salad. If you fill up on leafy greens (opt for vinegar and oil dressing) or a broth-based soup, you won't be as likely to gorge yourself on your entree. Or you can make a soup and salad your entire meal.
- Order things on the side. Order salad dressings and sauces on the side, adding only the amount you need.
- Steer clear of fried and sauteed dishes. Opt for grilled, steamed or broiled dishes instead.
- Assert yourself. Don't be afraid to ask for modifications or substitutions to make your order healthier. Your server should be happy to accommodate your requests (unless the menu notes otherwise).
- Take your time. Eat slowly and chew everything thoroughly to give your stomach enough time to tell your brain you're full.
- Swap out starchy sides. Trade potatoes, pastas and bread for steamed veggies or a side salad.
Read more: How the Timing of Your Lunch Order Affects Weight Gain
Learn More About Dining Out While Getting Lean
The good news about eating at restaurants is that so many places now cater to many different dietary needs. So know what to ask for and speak up! And arm yourself with even more knowledge to help you be the healthiest diner you can be.
- What to Order (and What to Avoid!) With Restaurant Food
- 5 Worst Chain Restaurant Meals (and 5 Better Options)
- The 14 Healthiest Foods at Fast Food Restaurants
- How to Eat Healthy at Mexican Restaurants
How to Join the Get Strong in 2019 Challenge
1. Sign Up for Daily Emails
There are two main places this challenge is taking place online — your inbox and our Facebook group (more on that in a second). So first, make sure you've entered your email to sign up for the Get Strong in 2019 Challenge. (Yep, even if you're already signed up for our regular daily newsletter.)
Every day, we'll be sending you your daily workout and a healthy recipe to try, along with fun extras like workout playlists, motivational quotes, self-care tips and other fitness and nutrition information to make 2019 your best (and healthiest) year ever!
2. Print Out Your Calendars
Isn't it so satisfying to check things off of your to-do list? Each day during the Get Strong in 2019 Challenge, you're accountable for two main things: working out and eating healthy.
To help keep you on track for the entire month, we created two calendars — one with each day's workouts listed and another with each week's nutrition goal and healthy recipes. Print them out and check off each workout and day of healthy eating as you complete it.
3. Join Our Challenge Facebook Group
For daily support, motivation and camaraderie with LIVESTRONG.COM team members, join our Facebook Group for the Get Strong in 2019 Challenge. We'll share recipes, tips, motivations, pictures and more! Plus, we'll answer all your questions.
4. Share Your Journey on Social Media
Are you on Instagram or Twitter? So are we! And we'd love to see photos and updates of your progress. When you post to social media, be sure to use the hashtag #GetStrongChallenge. That way, you can also connect with other Get Strong challengers!