8 Effective Ways To Stick To Your Diet While Eating Out

You’ve done it.  

You have stuck to your nutrition plan all week, and now it’s time to kick back and celebrate.

It’s time to hit up your family’s favorite taco spot, which means you will have your usual: 

A few tacos, a margarita, guac, and chips for the table, and maybe even dessert. 

It’s so good that you decide to finish your kid’s leftover taco, and because you don’t want the guac to go to waste, you order more chips. The chips make you thirsty, and your partner is driving, so you get another margarita. 

What started as a big meal turned into a bigger one, and as far as calories go…well, it’s the weekend, right?  

If this sounds familiar, don’t be alarmed because we’ve been there. 

That’s why by the end of this article, you will know how to eat out without slowing your weight loss progress. 

Problem #1  You were “good all week.” 

How many times have you told yourself you were “good” all week and that you deserve to kick back and finally enjoy yourself? 

Being “good” all week can mean being overly restrictive with your food and calories.  

After all, if you’re eating 1,200 calories a day and avoiding specific foods, the likely hood of you overconsuming while eating out goes up.  

Instead of categorizing foods as “good or bad,” start looking at foods on a spectrum going from good –> better –>best. 

You might do this by switching things up and enjoying foods you save for the weekend on a random Wednesday. 

Doing this teaches you that specific foods hold no moral standings, and you’ll be less likely to overdo it on the guac and chips.  

Use the good -> better -> best scale when switching up your routine. 

Good: Double quarter pounder with fries and a Mcflurry on Saturday

Better: Double quarter pounder with fries and a diet coke on a Wednesday. 

Best: Making a cheeseburger and fries at home and having a diet coke on a Monday. 

Each of these examples can fit into your nutrition plan. 

Problem #2 The healthy choice still has calories.

You have decided to stick to your health kick and order the healthiest thing on the menu. 

Let’s say you go to Apple Bee’s and decide to get their South West Chicken Bowl.   

According to the Apple Bee’s menu, there are 820 calories:

  • 54g protein 
  • 89g Carbs
  • 30g fat

Something to consider is other variables such as the amount of oil being used for cooking the food, the serving size given that particular day, and the dressing. 

It’s a “healthy” option that you could split into two meals; however, because it seems like the healthy option, someone could quickly eat the entire thing in one sitting. I’m speaking from first-hand experience. 😅 

One meal doesn’t ruin all your progress during the week, but sometimes it leads to you embracing the f*ck it diet. 

Problem #3: F*ck It 

Just because you have one meal that can’t fit into some idealistic box of “health and fitness” you have created for yourself doesn’t mean you have ruined your progress. 

I know it’s not the first time you have heard any of this, yet sometimes you will embrace the f*ck it mentality.   

“I ruined my “clean” eating progress for the week, so what’s the point.”  

Diet culture thrives on all-or-nothing thinking. Yes, I talk about weight loss; however,  I am not telling you to beat yourself up when you have a meal with friends and family. 

I am not telling you that you are a terrible person if your day doesn’t adhere to the plan. 

I am not telling you there is no point in trying to lose weight if that is your goal. 

I am telling you that you will make mistakes, and it’s your job to learn something and make adjustments.  

Does that mean avoiding eating out? Nope. 

Does that mean believing that calories don’t exist? Nope. 

Does that mean the things this article teaches you will help? Darn tooting! 

______

The Calories aren’t 100% Accurate. 

The truth is that calories listed on menus aren’t 100% accurate. It’s impossible because there are so many factors at play. Calories listed on food labels are still an estimate. It’s normal, and you shouldn’t panic; however, you should still track if that is your primary tool for weight management. 

When you cook at home, you might notice it is tough to measure everything out, just you cooking for yourself or your family. Now imagine you’re a chef trying to feed an entire restaurant.  

Things won’t be accurately weighed. 

Oil and butter can be used, and usually, it’s eyeballed. 

It’s okay! You should still enjoy your meal, and here is a fantastic option I learned from an article written by coach Sam Forget.

Itemizing & Assessing Bulk Assessing
Look at each component as its own portionLook for your meal on your tracking app
See the average entry for part of the dish on your tracking app.Check average entry for dish
Round up by 20%Round up by 20%
Most AccurateNot As Accurate, But Still Counts!

Option 1: Itemizing and Assessing. 

  • Look at each component of the meal as its own portion. 
  • See what the average entry is for each part of the dish on your tracking app. 
  • Round up by 20% for each estimate. 
  • Most accurate

In Sam’s words

“if you look up “Atlantic salmon,” you might see 10-15 entries ranging from 160-340 calories. But most of them say four ounces is ~240 calories, and you feel like there’s ~8 ounces on your plate (based on your tracking experience).

In this scenario: double the entry (240 calories x 2 servings = 480 calories), and round up 20% (480 calories x 1.2). You now have your estimate: 576 calories.” 

The most important part he references is rounding up by 20%. This accounts for extra oil, sauce, or any human error in the kitchen. 

Option 2: Bulk Assessments

  • Look for what you’re eating on your tracking app. 
  • Check the average entry for the dish. 
  • Round up by 20% 

This is not as accurate as the first option; however, certain meals will be tedious to itemize. Nobody has time to look at each kernel of corn and bean in your rice dish.  

Save your time and energy by following the steps, and don’t forget to round up by 20%! 

Check The Menu Ahead Of Time

I try to have all my coaching clients look up menus in advance. Looking at the menu makes it easier to put things into perspective and plan the rest of your meals for the day. 

While the menus won’t be 100% accurate, you can log it as a “place holder.” This makes it easier to see how that affects your calories for the rest of the day. 

I try to have clients work off a plate template when ordering. 

It’s a framework you can use when structuring your meals. This might mean getting something like your sauce or dressing on the side, which can be a game changer in a fat loss phase.  

It’s something to be aware of and to experiment with as you plan your meals. 

Eating a little less before going. 

 In theory, this sounds easy, but it can be challenging if you go into your meal without being aware of what you will have. 

It takes more than one meal to ruin any progress you have made thus far. Yes, the scale will be up the day after eating out, but that has more to do with water retention, which is FRICKEN normal, so please don’t fret, chia pet. 

Okay… I know you don’t believe me, so I will explain it in a little more detail. 

To lose weight, someone needs to be in a calorie deficit. So let’s say you read my macro article and determine your daily calorie intake should be around 1,800 per day. 

You then want to look at your weekly calorie intake: 

1,800 x 7 days = 12,600 calories

You can split your calories however you would like Monday through Sunday so long as you end up at 12,600, give or take 200 calories. That puts you in a weekly deficit, which matters for fat loss. 

So if your meal is a higher calorie meal, no biggie, you have a few options. 

If you know in advance what day of the week you are going out and you know you will let it be a big meal, adjust your intake during the day. 

That might mean having a smaller breakfast or lunch. 

It could mean just skipping the snack you usually have before dinner. 

It all depends on who you are and what works best for your lifestyle. 

If you know you are going out on Friday and Saturday, adjust your calories to have higher calorie days on those two days. 

  • Monday: 1,720 calories
  • Tuesday: 1,720 calories 
  • Wednesday: 1,720 calories
  • Thursday: 1,720 calories 
  • Friday: 2,000 calories 
  • Saturday: 2,000 calories 
  • Friday: 1,720 calories 

Total calories = 12,600 ✅

The technical term for this is calorie cycling, one tool someone can use to give themselves wiggle room. I don’t have clients do this unless they are comfortable with tracking and have learned to understand weight fluctuations.  

Fork Down Between Bites 

While calories matter, it’s essential to consider your ability to practice specific eating skills that will help to improve hunger and fullness cues.  

These skills shift from the calorie-focused approach like the previous steps and emphasize a mindful eating approach.

The basic gist of mindful eating is to slow the f*ck down! 

Seriously, slow down and enjoy the meal in front of you. You’re not being “bad” for ordering something off the menu that you want to have. I told you to KNOCK IT OFF, lame Jane. 

So, slow down and enjoy. 

Try to take a bite of your food, chew it, swallow it, and savior it. 

Don’t put another bit in your gosh darn mouth until you have finished the last bite. 

This can be challenging, especially if it is something highly palatable.  

  • Try placing the food or fork down between bites. 
  • Try taking a sip of water between bites.
  • Try looking up from your food and talking with the person sitting across from you. 

All of the above will help you start to slow down, making the meal more enjoyable. 

Match The Pace Of The Slowest Eater

Okay, maybe you are more of a visual learner and me telling you to put your fork down between bites makes you want to give me a swift kick in the booty.  

Well, my fine feathered friend, you can try to match the pace of the slowest eater at the table. 

This is one of my favorite skills to assign to a weight loss client with young kids. 

It takes my son roughly 45 minutes to eat a single slice of pizza. 😅

Matching the slowest eater’s pace allows you to check in and acknowledge how fast you are eating. If your dinner date is working on their first bites and you are ready to order dessert, it indicates you need to slow down. 

Okay, let’s say you’re alone…what can you do?  

Pause and perform a mid-meal check-in. 

About halfway through the meal, pause and ask yourself the following: 

  • Am I getting full?
  • How fast am I eating? 
  • Can I slow down? 

These three short questions can shift the trajectory of your meal. You might find you are full and truly in love with the taste. When you are chasing the taste, it’s easier to ignore your fullness.  

That’s why checking in is so helpful. 

Organize Your Plate

I want you to try to shift things around on your plate. Focus on starting with your vegetables and protein. 

By prioritizing fiber and protein, you will focus on the nutrient-dense portion of your plate. Once you finish, enjoy the carb portion of your plate. 

It’s not that carbohydrates are the enemy. No, it just so happens that it’s much easier to over-consume the order of fries before enjoying the rest of your meal. 

Boxing up half when you sit down 

Most restaurants serve double portions, especially if the meal is over 1,000 calories. 

So, if you’re not going to try any of the other options I mentioned earlier, you can ask for a to-go box when you order. 

Then take half of your plate and save it for another meal.  

It seems easy, and that’s because it is. 😉

Horizon Guidelines 

Honestly, you know what happens when you go out to eat.

You know what happens when you have a few beers with friends.

You know how you react to each of these situations, so planning ahead helps.

It’s not about creating rules because that tends to make someone feel like a failure if things don’t go according to plan.

Like my weight loss client, John.

He was having a hard time on the weekends. There were a lot of family parties, drinks with friends, and huge meals out.

A few weeks ago, he noted a few similar patterns, like eating quickly and eating off other people’s plates.

So, we decided he would work on setting the horizon guideline:

👉 Having one plate and one dessert

👉 2 drinks max when going to parties or out to eat

After setting these “horizon” guidelines, he noticed that he wakes up on Sunday with more energy and has an easier time kicking off his Monday.

When he tried these guidelines, sometimes it worked better than others. In our check-in call, we could pinpoint what he could adjust, and then he would try again.

John’s making some solid progress.

Nutrition is an experiment, and it requires adjustments along the way. It’s not a one size fits experience; there’s more to it. 🤓

One Meal Doesn’t Destroy Your Progress 

Going out to eat with friends and family is special, and if you’re trying to lose weight, it doesn’t mean ordering lettuce and baked chicken. 😉

You have to plan and adjust as needed. 

👉 Weekly calories and adjusting for higher calorie days.

👉 Looking at the menu ahead of time and picking what you want.

👉 Practicing mindful eating.

👉 Setting horizon guidelines

What works for one person might not work for you, and that’s okay. Try a different option until you find what fits your weight loss journey best. 

If you try all of the above and still feel a little lost, click here and see if you are a good fit for 1:1 online nutrition coaching. 

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