| July 21, 2021

Restaurant meal hacks

Did you know that the average meal in a restaurant is over 1,000 calories? That’s without alcohol, appetizers, or dessert. So if you’re someone who eats out a lot, this blog is for you.

By Michelle Moen

Read time: 3 min.

Did you know that the average meal in a restaurant is over 1,000 calories? That’s without alcohol, appetizers, or dessert. So if you’re someone who eats out a lot, this blog is for you. Here are some hacks for eating healthier when you’re out. 

1. Skip the bread

Complimentary bread at the beginning of your meal, while delicious, can set you back 500 or more calories. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather get my calories from other sources. 

2. Order the steak

Steak is still fairly calorie dense, but the calories are coming mostly from whole food- red meat! In addition, ordering the steak will also be high protein, unlike most restaurant meals. This will leave you fuller, longer. 

3. Cocktails

Steer clear of blended frozen drinks, like Pina coladas, margaritas, Bellini’s, and daiquiri’s. The alcohol content adds very few calories to these drinks compared to the added sugars. Some better options would be dry varietals of wine, vodka soda with lime juice, or any hard alcohol mixed with diet pop. One ounce of alcohol typically runs between 70-100 calories, which isn’t a lot. When you add syrups, pop, and juices however, that 70 calorie drink will suddenly run you 300-500 calories. 

4. Swap the accompaniment  

Most restaurants allow you to make substitutions for your side. Instead of having creamy mashed potatoes for your side, you can ask to have steamed vegetables instead, or a mixed green salad with the dressing on the side. I typically ask for my salad dressing on the side so I can control the amount of added oils going on my meal. 

5. Sauces

Heavy cream sauces, bernaise, Caesar salad dressing, are all examples of very high calorie sauces. Usually you can ask for an alternative sauce, if you still want sauce with your meal, or ask for it on the side so you can control the portion size. Hot sauce, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar are all lower calorie options. 

6. Oils

It can be surprising to look up some meals that appear healthy, have a really high calorie content. One reason is that restaurants tend to add a lot of oils and butter to pretty much everything, to make it taste better. Sometimes you can ask for your fish to be baked instead of pan fried, or your vegetables to be steamed instead of sautéed in butter. 

Mindful Tracking

Finally, real life is going out to eat with friends and family. You don’t always need to order lower calorie options/substitutions every time you go out to eat. Sometimes it’s nice to indulge. In this case, I would decrease calories earlier in the day, to allow for more flexibility later on in the day. I would decrease carbs and fats earlier in the day, but keep protein high. If you also cut your protein earlier in the day, you might overeat later due to hunger. Have an egg white omelet for breakfast, chicken breast and green vegetables for lunch, a protein smoothie for a mid afternoon snack, and enjoy a higher calorie dinner. 

Navigating restaurant meals when you have body composition goals can be tricky, but doable. My go-to orders are steak and vegetables, sashimi and steamed vegetables, bunless burgers, and omelets. This will obviously change depending on where you’re eating, but typically, look for higher protein meals. I could easily eat 700 calories worth of pasta, and still be hungry 2 hours later, which is why I choose higher protein restaurant meals. Lastly, there’s a time and a place to let your hair down. You don’t have to nail your targets perfectly, everyday. If I don’t have a competition coming up, I’ll just eat whatever I fancy off the menu. Don’t forget to live your life. This is such a small part of life, and your social connections are what really matter. 

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