There is no need to completely avoid restaurants when on a health and fitness journey. Sure, the goal is to make most of your food yourself, but it's simply unrealistic to think that you're always going to turn down those work happy hours, those birthday dinners, those catch-up drinks with friends. You're creating a healthy lifestyle, not a quick-fix diet.
However, I'd be remiss not to acknowledge that restaurants add lots of mystery ingredients to their food, the food is usually far higher in calories, sodium, and unhealthy fats than anything you'd make at home, and restaurants usually serve much larger portions.
But, with some planning, eating out can be both healthy and enjoyable. Here are some simple tips on which to rely when you're eating out so that you don't sabotage your healthy and fitness progress.
Don't be starving when you arrive. If you had a solid, protein-filled afternoon snack, by the time you arrive at dinner you'll be less likely to devour the bread basket and impulse-order the mozz sticks as an appetizer.
If you can, find the menu beforehand and plan what you're going to order! This works wonders for many of our clients. The key is sticking to the plan. It's easy to pick at home and then arrive at the restaurant and feel peer pressure or food envy. Make a plan and stick to it. Something that can help with this is ordering first if you're in a group. That way you definitely won't be negatively influenced by someone's lasagna order.
Order lean protein. Lean chicken, lean ground turkey. White fish, such as branzino or sea bass. Choose grilled, roasted, or steamed over sautéed or fried. You have no idea how much terrible oil restaurants use, even just to sauté.
Ask for double the vegetables instead of a starch! Easy fix! Instead of the fries, rice, or potatoes, ask for a double order of veg (again, grilled/roasted/steamed), or a salad with dressing on the side/oil and vinegar as your dressing.
If eating Asian, ask for wok-tossed or steamed veggies and chicken satay with no sauce. If Mexican, chicken or fish fajitas with no sour cream. If a general casual restaurant, get a salad with oil & vinegar dressing, or a simple burger, or grilled chicken and vegetables. If you're being extreme, feel free to skip the bun (but carbs are not the enemy).
Don't be afraid to modify. See something on the menu that's like 75% what you want but then doused in cream or something crazy? Ask the server and make it your own. This is usually very doable. At the end of the day, YOU are the customer and the customer is always right... right?!
Lastly, eat slowly. Enjoy the conversation and the people with whom you're dining. It takes a bit for your brain to realize that your stomach is full, so SLOW DOWN and take in the experience of eating out and having this special meal.
This is a good place to start. Remember that you're human. If you decide to eat a bad meal, you're not doing anything wrong. You're human. Sometimes maybe you want to eat a pizza, and that's what that is. Remember that it's a conscious decision you've chosen to make, but then get right back on track immediately with the next meal.