How To Not Gain Weight While Eating Out This Holiday Season
Feasting on mounds of food is a time tested Filipino past time. For holidays, all the women in my family gather around eating and chatting the whole day. Then my mother (up to this day) would scold me for not eating enough before leaving the house.
Unsurprisingly enough, I grew up wanting to taste every single thing on the table during social events. My eyes would dilate, and my mouth would water every time I saw a table full of food – I could not stop myself from eating, even when I knew I was not hungry. No, I was not a glutton (well, maybe a little), but because I was programed to equate being social to eating… a lot! And that is most of us, no matter what culture or race we come from. We all love to eat! This is probably the reason why when we are on a “strict diet”, we tend to stress out on eating out.
Experiences like these are not uncommon, and as such, most of us have developed not only unhealthy eating habits, but also a toxic relationship with food in general. We tell ourselves that we either have to throw away our social life if we want to lose weight. After all most social gatherings involve food! If we do go out we get anxiety attacks, scrambling to find the one (often non-existent) dish that “fits” our diet.
I’m here to tell you that all that fuss is entirely unnecessary. I’m here to help you rekindle your love for food—without regaining any of the unwanted body fat. I will not single out any specific diet but focus on tracking macros/calories so it can apply to any meal plan, depending on which macronutrient you are trying to specifically control.
1. STICK TO THE PLAN!
My fitness tips always start with HAVING A PLAN. If your going to eat out checking out the menu ahead of time so you can stick to your diet without having to stress out over some imaginary time limit (or actual time limit if your friends start moaning). Most restaurants have their menu online, so this should be easy.
2. Make special requests or ask questions.
Order confidently while keeping in mind that restaurants are used to special requests. Do not ever feel embarrassed or reluctant to ask the server to remove specific ingredients or to have some ingredients or toppings on the side or separated. You are also allowed to ask how many grams of food you were served! Believe me it’s not as weird as you think!
3. Learn the language!
When looking through the menu, always look out for words like broiled, baked, grilled, boiled, steamed and sautéed. Stay away from breaded, creamy, deep-fried – these are not the smartest options when you’re on a strict diet.
4. Combine foods properly!
Going back to “having a plan” – decide whether you will go for fat and protein or carbs and protein. If you are in the mood for creamy and high fat, then you might opt for more greens and take it easy on the carbs. Carbs and fat just don’t make a good combination, unless you don’t mind some bloat the next day.
5. Don’t drink your calories.
Cutting out sweetened drinks and alcohol are probably one of the simplest strategies to cut out unwanted calories. Go for calorie free options like unsweetened iced tea or diet soda so you can save the indulgence on your food. Want to have a little cocktail? Go for clear drinks like a Skinny G&T, and always go for top shelf items!
1. Skip out on the bread baskets (or chips).
STOP RIGHT THERE! Look away, and hands off on the free carbs on the table! (I know right? Hard to say no to free carbs!!!) Not only are these loaded with empty calories, they also usually come with fatty condiments like butter, olive oil, guacamole and these things can make you pack on 500 calories easily before your first dish even arrives! Simply ask your server to take the basket out. We all know that will power is a limited resource, so the longer the basket is in your line of sight the more it will continue to drain your will resources! Get it outta there asap!
2. Go for greens!
I make it a habit to start my meals with lots of fiber, this is not only good for digestion but fibrous foods can help you become full a lot faster! For smarter options, go for the most basic in the menu – grilled protein with minimal toppings would be the best choice. Stay away from salads with breaded protein and ridiculous high carb toppings. Ask to have these and the dressing and cheese on the side. Sometimes, salads can pack on the calories because of the amount of fat in the dressings and cheese. Tip on salad dressings: DIP, NEVER POUR! #dipneverpour
**not into salads? Go for broth or tomato based soup.
2. Pre-game with protein!
Restaurants usually have awesome high protein options as appetizers. A bowl of poke, baked oysters or cured meats might be better options than ordering cheese sticks or pizza bites!
You can always rely on good ol’ chicken, fish, pork and my personal favorite—steak. Don’t be afraid to ask questions though:
- How was the protein prepared? Your safest bet would be grilled or baked.
- Is the protein breaded? If it is, ask if the restaurant can serve it without the breading.
- Does the protein come in sauce? Dishes with sauces aren’t necessarily off-limits but just make sure to ask for the sauce on the side so you can control the amount.
- Not sure what protein is? – This might sound morbid but try to keep in mind that if the food item used to have eyes and mouth, it’s definitely protein!
2. Managing side dishes
Watching your carbs? Then skip on the starchy sides (rice, potato, corn, bread etc) and double up on the side salad/greens. If the restaurant doesn’t offer a veggie option, then ask the server to divide the side in half and have it wrapped for a to-go, better yet have the half and share it with the other people in the dinner table. This will also keep Little Miss Plate Picker from picking on your food (you know who you are!)
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a healthy dessert when you are on a diet. But then again, if you’ve made all the right choices and unless you’re getting close to a deadline—allow yourself to indulge in your favorite sweet treats once a week. Remember, balance and sustainability is key in maintaining healthy eating habits. You don’t want to restrict yourself so much that you end up burning yourself out.
These tips may seem like a lot to memorize in the beginning, but before you know it – it’ll be second nature. When I am eating out I get that “holy cow! How did I arrive home while driving” feeling after doing these tips because it’s already second nature, it’s like going on autopilot. Building healthy eating habits and sticking to the plan can be stress free but (jut like habits) it does take practice. Taking control and being knowledgeable of what you eat will remove all anxiety and improve your overall relationship with food. Happy Eating!
Follow Ida Paras on Instagram for more health and fitness tips: @ida_paras