So you’ve been following your flexible dieting plan for a while now and so far, so good!
You’ve gotten used to weighing and measuring your food with ease and tracking your daily macro data has never felt simpler. But… then the thing you’ve been dreading happens. Someone invites you out to dinner and you feel your heart sink a little. You can’t go out to eat while working towards a fat loss goal, right?
What should you do? Cancel on them to avoid all temptation and stick to your diet? Or maybe give yourself a night off from tracking and go crazy, I mean you’ve been so good lately…?
The answer is: NEITHER!
You can stick to your flexible diet AND go out to eat!
Here are 3 approaches to make it work.
Approach 1: Plan Ahead of Time
This strategy is the ideal for people who are newer to flexible dieting. It takes a little time and a little extra thought, but it makes your day (and your meal out to eat) a stress-free breeze!
HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:
For example’s sake, let’s say your friend invites you to Cheesecake Factory. You pull up their online menu and consider your options. Hmm… the Four Cheese Pasta dish sounds really good! The good thing about big chain restaurants is that their menus are mostly imported with accurate calories/macros/micros to MyFitnessPal.
As you search the Four Cheese Pasta, you find that the dish has 1240 calories! Although you surely could fit this into your total calories for the day, it probably wouldn’t be the most sensible decision as it would make the rest of the day extremely difficult. (Like eating chicken breast and egg whites the rest of the day to hit your protein kind of difficult.)
Because you’re a boss babe and planning ahead, you are in the position to make eating out at Cheesecake Factory AND hitting your fitness nutrition goals work.
You could decide to enjoy ½ of the entree at the restaurant (meaning only 620 calories used!) and box up the rest to take home for a later meal. Or, maybe instead, you will choose one of the “lighter fare” options that most restaurants have these days, including Cheesecake Factory, as they not only are lower-calorie but higher protein and can fit into your day without much work.
Whichever route you take, you will be successful thanks to a little planning. You decide that eating half of the meal today and boxing up the rest for later is the choice that sounds right to you.
Voila! Once you make a decision you can comfortably plan the rest of your day to make sure you hit your goals and are saved the stress of making a rushed decision at the restaurant or missing out on quality time with your friend while tracking in MyFitnessPal.
PRO TIP: BUYING YOURSELF EXTRA CALORIES
If you’re wanting to eat something (at any restaurant) that is going to take up a significant amount of calories, it can be done with a little maneuvering! A good approach is to cut down what you’re eating during the day to accommodate extra calories for that meal.
For example, during your breakfast let’s say you really like having 2 eggs and 2 slices of toast. On a day when you know you’re going to use up more calories than normal heading out to eat you could substitute your normal eggs for egg whites or consider cutting down to a single slice of toast to buy yourself an extra few hundred calories.
Maybe, you really enjoy having a small Coke with lunch. Subbing your Coke for water (or a diet beverage) will you also give you extra leeway for your night out.
If you want to get really tricky, another option is to cut down your calories the next day to give yourself more for your evening out. A good rule of thumb is to borrow up to 200 calories from the next day (or borrow them in advance the day before) and then utilize those calories for your dinner. However, this can be a dangerous cycle to get into. If you cut out too many of tomorrow’s calories- you may find yourself struggling to stick to your goal. This usually won’t be recommended by your coach.
Approach 2: Make an Informed Decision
No time to plan ahead? Going to a smaller restaurant where the menu or calories/macros aren’t listed online? That’s okay! Don’t overstress it. If you’re in a bind and don’t have extra calories for the day- there is still bound to be a lighter option at almost any restaurant. If you’ve got the calories and something, in particular, is looking good, enter in the ingredients individually into MFP using your best judgment and decide how you will approach the meal.
EXAMPLE: OUT TO MEXICAN
You check out the menu of the restaurant and see Steak Fajitas listed. This sounds good! You look at what’s included with the dish and use your best estimate to track the meal. After tracking, it looks like this meal will run you about 1,609 calories.
You decide that you’ll have the waiter hold the tortillas, rice, some of the guac, and plan to eat ¾ of the fajita dish to save you some extra calories (or give them to your friend). Now this meal is only running you 655 cals. WIN…WIN
THE BIG QUESTION: WHAT IF I TRACKED WRONG THOUGH?
One of the hardest parts of all of this tends to be the ever pressing “what if” question of whether or not you’ve tracked correctly. What if your guesstimate was incorrect?
Maybe you’re off by 30 calories-maybe even 100. The truth is…. in the long run tracking something incorrectly (or imperfectly) is bound to happen! Because we don’t have scales with us 24/7 (hopefully) and restaurants and even prepackaged foods can have some measure of error, there are just some variables that are out of our control. However, if you’re consistent, even a couple hundred calorie variance will not throw off your progress. And just imagine…how much further off would you have been had you not tracked at all?
PRO TIP: TAKE A PICTURE FOR LATER
Okay so we get it, you’re out with your friend and you don’t want so spend valuable time tracking things in your phone. This is one reason why tracking before you go can be great, but you can also snap a picture of your meal to track as soon as you’re done! This is not the most effective method, but can be useful in a bind!
Approaches 3: The “Hermit” Approach
Stay in. Be a hermit and do everything in your power to avoid going out at all costs. Okay, okay…I’m kind of kidding with this one, but you get the point. It is inevitable! You will go out to eat sometime and a diet that pushes you to never do this is going to be a hard one to stick to!
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER:
I know that at first, heading out to eat can feel intimidating, but it is SO very doable with patience and practice. As you continue to flexible diet, heading out to any restaurant will be something you can do with ease and without so much effort. However, remember that the effort you put into learning how to do it now is what’s going to get you there!
Check out these helpful sites for macro-friendly restaurant help: