How to Stay On Track When Eating Out

May 23, 2018

This past weekend, I got takeout, went out to dinner for date night, and celebrated a bridal shower out to brunch. In the past, I would have felt like all of these meals out meant that I was not in control of what I was eating, like I had no idea how to order healthy choices, and that I had completely fallen off the healthy eating wagon.


Sound familiar?


What if I told you that there was a way to enjoy eating out without stalling (or reversing) progress toward your goals? Yea...right. No, but really… right!


When you’ve learned how to eat within a specific calorie range and how to fill your plates with nutrient dense foods, then eating out becomes no problem at all! The next step is to learn to plan ahead and compensate earlier in the day.


Here’s how to do it:


  1. Plan ahead and prioritize.

On Saturday morning, I woke up early before I had to go teach my fit classes. I knew that I was going to have my typical morning oats. They are my favorite preworkout breakfast, are super nutritious and keep me full for a long time. So, I went ahead and entered that into MyFitnessPal.


Then, after many rounds of “what do you want for dinner?”... “I don’t know, what do you want?”, the boyfriend and I finally decided on where we were going to go for date night later in the evening. So, I got online, looked at the menu and decided what I thought I would order ahead of time. I entered as close a meal as possible, including wine, into MyFitnessPal.

Doing this allowed me to see how the different choices on the menu would play into my day. I decided to have the hummus appetizer and the veggie burger (I love it... the best I've found!) on top of a salad with their tasty vinaigrette. I chose to forego the bun knowing that I would eat plenty of pita bread, and I opted out of the fries because they would have taken up too many of my daily calories. I made the mindful decision that on this particular date night, I didn't need them. I didn't even miss them because the salad and app was so yummy and filling. *If I had chosen to have the fries, that would have been fine too. Occasionally choosing to go over your calories is no big deal at all. It would have been a mindful choice, not a binge, and I would have rocked it 


2. Compensate at other meals.

At this point, I had used up a lot of my day’s calories, but still had about 500 left to play with. I made sure that my lunch fit within that- I wasn’t hungry for snacks in between meals this day. I also made sure that lunch was high-volume (lots of greens and fibrous veggies) and high-nutrient (even though I had healthy plans for dinner, I wanted to make sure I got in all those necessary vitamins and minerals).




3. Enjoy your meal and stick to your plan.

When we got to the restaurant, I had a game plan. I also could enjoy my wine, appetizers, and meal without any second thought or worry that I was “falling off track”. There is a sense of control and calm that comes from not having to decide spur-of-the moment or worry about scouring the menu for the best choice. I did that work earlier. So, I was able to enjoy the company and conversation with my boyfriend.


That meal was absolutely delicious. It was some of my favorite things, and I didn’t have to deprive myself because of healthy eating or fitness goals. Deprivation is not the answer. It doesn’t work because you feel like you’re missing out, and eventually this leads to cravings and binge eating on those “bad foods” later… which only sets you back.


Making healthy eating choices and working towards your goals (whether they are performance or weight loss) does NOT mean you need to be on a restrictive diet. No lists of good foods or bad foods. Everything can fit, if you practice making them work into your full day of eating.


What if I do go overboard?


Admittedly, my date night didn’t end with just the meal pictured above. I definitely had a third glass of wine which coerced me into also eating a big chocolate chip cookie when I got home. It was the wine’s fault. Both of those things made me go over my daily calorie allowance by around 350 cals. (I didn't eat the chocolate buckeye)


So what did I do to “get back on track”? Literally nothing different. I drank some water and went to bed. The next day, I didn’t add in extra cardio or subtract 350 cals from that day’s eating. I went to the gym and got my planned lift in, and I ate exactly to my plan as I would have if I hadn’t gone over the day before. No big deal.


One meal over your calories isn’t going to change or stall your progress. It’s no reason to throw in the towel or to over do the exercise the next day to compensate. Just move on, get back to the plan and don’t skip a beat. If you’re in it for the long haul, to make real, lasting lifestyle changes, then one meal is not a game changer. Continue working, changing your habits, and making decisions toward better health.


So, there are 2 lessons to be learned from my date night. First, anything can fit- wine, veggie burgers, pizza, ice cream.... anything! As long as you're smart about it. Second, going over your intended calories is inevitable. It is going to happen, and it is not the end of the world. 


It's a lifestyle, and it has to be flexible. Learning your food is the first step, and then you can take control by making mindful decisions about what you eat on a daily basis. Long-term progress towards health and wellness comes from putting these habits into place. 


Need more help getting started on your plan? Check out the coaching page, and I'd be happy to help!


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