When trying to lose weight, you almost have to choose between having a productive week or enjoying meals out with friends.
So you can stay at home like a loner and miss out on all of the fun..
Or you can go out, have a great time and feel bad about letting yourself down when you get home.
Not great choices.
But what if I told you that you could lose weight and enjoy meals out too?
The Problem With Eating Out At Restaurants
A very common and very justified concern is the fact that you often just don’t know how many calories is in a particular meal, you often don’t know how big it is going to be until it is served.
You will have to make peace with the fact that you probably won’t have the information you need to accurately tally up calories, some establishments now list the calorie content of their meals and you can always ask but you are going to be getting estimates either way.
Estimating Calorie Content
If you’ve been calorie counting for some time and have a good idea of the calorie content of a similar meal you may have cooked for yourself or know what each ingredient contains with some degree of accuracy then it’s a lot easier to estimate.
There are approaches you can take when you go out for a meal at a restaurant
- Eat lower calorie foods to limit any calorie excess from the meal
- Eat less before going to restaurant to give yourself a buffer of calories
Eat Lower Calorie Foods
This approach involves sticking to your diet as much as possible, it might not be quite as satisfying but it means you don’t have to miss out on the social element of a meal out.
The first thing you’ll be asked when you sit down is what you’d like to drink.
I’m not going to delve into which drinks are good and bad or go on about how you shouldn’t drink alcohol. I don’t believe in it.
Alcoholic drinks are generally quite high in calories with shots normally around 60-80 calories and options such as a pint of beer or cider or 250ml of wine coming in somewhere around 200-250 calories. I would certainly suggest limiting the number of drinks but abstaining from alcohol completely isn’t necessary for weight loss.
Fill Up On Starters
For starters, salads and soups are great options because they have high water and fibre content which generally means they’ll fill you up and contribute fewer calories to your meal. Dressings are often high in calories so watch how much you use.
Enjoy Your Main Course, But Limit The Sides
Most main courses in English restaurants aren’t too bad if you go easy on the sides. You can usually keep the steak but give the chips and onion rings a miss if you want a filling meal without going way over on calories.
With Chinese restaurants you’ll want to have boiled rice instead of fried rice or chips – as nice as they are, there’s a lot of fat in them. Lots of the sweeter dishes are very sugary and the chicken balls and spring rolls can add a surprising amount of calories from fat. Black bean sauce or oyster sauce dishes tend to be lower in calories than fried options.
Turkish restaurant meals are generally quite high in calories but they’re also fairly high in protein too because their meal tend to include lots of meat.
Indian meals tend to be very high in fat and calories and most dishes are not good for a person looking to lose weight however you can avoid the rich sauces and opt for tomato-based dishes like bhuna, jalfrezi or madras which contain less fat and fewer calories.
Desserts, If You Must
You probably instinctively know that desserts aren’t great for losing weight, you can quite quickly double the calorie content of your meal with a big dessert without adding much in the way of actual nutrition to your diet.
That said, if having a dessert is important to you, just choose a small one or be prepared for a lengthy cardio session to run it off.
If you don’t want to limit yourself too much, you can try the second approach.
Create A Calorie Buffer
Your weight loss will be dictated by your calorie deficit over time, you won’t do a massive amount of damage with a single meal.
As long as you’re creating a significant calorie deficit each week then you’ll continue to lose weight.
You can create a calorie buffer by eating less on that day or in the days before to build up an amount of calories to ‘spend’ on the meal. Some view this approach as unhealthy, I view it as smart. Think about it, do you not spend January on a treadmill to pay off the debt you built up overeating over Christmas?
Better to be on top of it.
Intermittent fasting is one approach to save up your calories for the evening. It basically involves not eating for an extended period before eating, there aren’t any obvious downsides to this approach as long as you don’t experience weakness or lightheadedness from not eating throughout the day.
I don’t promote any eating pattern over another for weight loss as there isn’t much research to support one over another however I personally make use intermittent fasting frequently when I’m looking to lose some fat and if I want to have a nice meal out now and then, I will.
The best approach is probably a mix of the two, you don’t want to restrict yourself too much, the psychological benefit of letting go every now and then is something that we all need.
Ultimately it doesn’t matter how you do it, as long as your numbers are good and your diet is mostly healthy.
What Is A Meal Out To You?
Sometimes it can help to ask yourself what a meal out is to you. Simply ask yourself, what is your idea of a meal out? Do you enjoy the company? Any particular foods or drinks? Certain parts of the evening?
When you think about it, you probably don’t enjoy being excessively full, you might get a sugary drink out of habit rather than genuinely wanting one. We’re all different people with different tastes and preferences but I suggest taking stock of what you actually do want when going out for a meal.
If you find yourself stuffed and uncomfortable after a meal and then regretting your choices later then it might be time to make different choices. Less food and different choices don’t mean that you can’t enjoy a meal as much or even more than you otherwise would.
Whatever you do, make sure you’re enjoying yourself rather than feeling guilty about your food choices.
Until next time,