8 Simple Steps to Eat Healthy at a Restaurant

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Sunday meal prep can be both the bane and savior of our existence. While it allows us to track our calories precisely and control what ingredients are put into our food, the truth of the matter is that meal prep can be extremely time consuming, messy, and inconvenient.

Related: No Food Prep, Eating Healthy Travel Guide

Although making your own food allows you to track your macronutrients, there are several other options available in order to adhere to a diet that is both healthy and sustainable. Follow these simple steps in order to eat out while still maintaining your diet.

Ryan Rodal discuss how to eat healthy at any restaurant.

How to Eat Healthy at a Restuarant

#1 – Pick a (lean) protein source

Try to stay away from fatty meat sources.

The first and most obvious option is chicken. Chicken is lean, fairly inexpensive, and available most anywhere. If you are not into chicken or want to switch it up request an alternative protein source such as lean ground turkey, lean ground beef, or fish.

Try to stick to a portion size that is roughly 6-8 ounces as this will generally provide you with 30 to 50 grams of protein for the meal. This is a moderate level of protein that should sustain your hunger for a number of hours.

These lean protein sources should also be fairly low in fat with less than ~15g of Fat.

#2 – Pick a complex carb source

PotatoThere are a number of options to choose from at most any restaurant including white rice, brown rice, whole wheat bread, white potato, sweet potato, or even quinoa.

Carbohydrates are the source of energy for our bodies. The fuel that feeds the fire. As active individuals workout glycogen stores are depleted of carbohydrates. As a result we need to replenish the energy stores in our muscles. Complex carbohydrates that are slower to digest and preferable as carb sources.

For your carbohydrates aim for approximately 40 to 80 grams. This is the equivalent of around 1 cup of rice or 1 medium sized potato. Although there is no set ratio, I recommend aiming for a 2:1 carb to protein ratio per meal.

#3 – Pick a veggie or veggie(s)

For your veggie option it never hurts to stick with the green options such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts, asparagus, or spinach.

Vegetables are voluminous and add a large quantity of food with very few calories. Just be sure to request that your veggies are not prepared in oils and butters. Having deep fried broccoli more than defeats the purpose of consuming the vegetable.

#4 – Stay away from oils, fats, butters

If given the option leave off all oils and fatty toppings. Furthermore, if dining at a restaurant request that food is cooked without oils.

For the most part leave off the cheese or ask for light cheese. Cheese is not inherently bad for our diets, however most restaurants are quick to add exorbitant amounts of cheese for flavor. Tell the restaurant what you want and most times they will accomodate.

#5 – Stick to low calorie condiments

You can’t go wrong with condiments such as mustard, hot sauce, buffalo sauce, or vinegar-based toppings. Always stay away from sugary or cream based dressings and condiments.

To be safe ask for your condiments on the side.

Condiments

#6 – Stay away from the filler foods

These foods may include tortilla chips at Mexican restaurants or Garlic bread at Italian restaurants. Either way these food items are full of fat, butter, and oil. Typically, they are free and easily over-consumed in mass quantities.

It’s best to limit yourself to one piece or avoid these items altogether.

#7 – Don’t feel obligated to eat the whole plate

Just because there is food on your plate doesn’t mean you are required to eat it all. Lack of portion sizing is a problem that has helped America to create the obesity epidemic.

Try to understand portion sizing food or worst case scenario bring a food scale. Asking for a to-go box never hurts either. Make that one meal into two if applicable.

#8 – Use common sense

Most restaurants whether it be McDonald’s or Denny’s have options that can be altered to be healthier. Stick to the protocol of choosing lean protein sources combined with moderately portioned carb sources and veggies.

If the menu describes it as “deep-fried” or “grande” these are probably not the best indicators.

Eating healthy does not have to confine an individual to solely meal prepping. By choosing appropriate options at your local restaurants along with common sense you will lead a healthy lifestyle while still partaking in birthday dinners, weddings, and other social events.

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Name: Ryan Rodal

Bio: My short term fitness goals include reaching a 300lb bench, 405 lb squat and a 500 lb deadlift. Longterm I want to become more involved in the fitness industry and help others achieve their goals. The bodybuilding lifestyle is not about how much you can lift or even how you look, its simply about being the best version of yourself.