I remember the first time I went to a restaurant after I began to track my food intake:
I freaked the f$*& out.
I had my meal prep down to a science; carbs, protein, and fat intake were flawless. Food scale here, containers there. Monday through Sunday. Meals 1 through 5. Wham, bam, done.
Then it was my friend's birthday and we were going out for dinner. How in the world do I know what to eat? Is this going to fit in my macros? Should I bring my food scale? Panic.
This situation was repeated multiple times until I felt like it was time to figure out a way out from that cycle of anxiety. In time, I developed a series of guidelines that helped me embrace these outings and stay on track with my nutrition and fitness goals.
1. Don't wait until you are so hungry you would literally eat a house.
It takes time for our body to realize satiety. It takes time for your stomach to tell your brain "ok, I'm good." By the time you are done eating enough food for a small village, you have gone past satiety and are now too full to get up from the table. Before going out to eat, have something small if you notice you are really hungry. A couple of almonds, some carrots, or beef jerky should do the trick.
The takeaway here: Don't go to a restaurant starving to death.
2. Don't be shy.
You are paying for your food and you should have the opportunity to get what you want, how you want it. Now, before you freak out about that one time your table asked you for some obnoxious request and left you a $1.37 tip (to round the total, of course), I will always advocate to be respectful and reasonable. It is okay to ask for the sauce on the side. It is not okay to ask for them to design a whole new plate for you. "Don't take no for an answer" does not apply here. If they are unable to fulfill your request, it is what it is.
The take away here: Ask. Worst case scenario is they say "no".
3. Pick your poison.
You really want to try their 24 oz. steak smothered in blue cheese and caramelized onions. You also need to try their new twist on the Whisky Old Fashioned. Oh, the triple lava cake concoction with house-made vanilla bean ice cream? You want that too. You basically want it all. If you are trying to have a balanced meal, leave satisfied and also be able to walk, this might not be the best idea (unless you are planning on sharing; then refer to #3.) Pick the one thing you really want and strategize around that. Seldom will one entree or dessert have one serving; it's usually 2 or more. If you really want it, save half for later.
I will give you an example: You want all of the above. However, you really want the dessert (that would be my pick). Have a salad or something light as your main dish, order the drink, and share the dessert. I bet you'll leave satisfied and ready to go run to the car when it's really cold (unless you're blessed with nice weather year 'round).
The takeaway here: Have control; being in a food coma is not fun.
4. You don't have to eat it all.
Save some for later, share it with someone, or ask if there's a smaller portion. Feeling bloated and heavy is no fun. Trust me when I say, when you roll over crying in agony because you ate way too much, you won't even remember how good everything tasted. Your pain will overpower your culinary pleasure.
The takeaway here: Same some space for when you're hungry again.
5. "On the side, please."
This applies to most things: sauce, dressing, cheese, toppings, etc. Your steak will taste just as good with a small amount of blue cheese and caramelized onions as opposed to the whole cup of those that come with it.
The takeaway here: Give your taste buds a little taste; that's all they need.
6. Grilled, baked, or broiled.
Fat tastes really good. That's why things high in fat or fried taste really good. However, sometimes it's better to skip the fat. Ask if you can have it grilled, baked, or broiled. The menu might even provide these alternatives.
The takeaway here: Choose the better option.
Have you found any other tips & tricks that have helped? Share yours in the comment section below and share these tips with your friends and family!