How to Eat Out With a Nutrition Plan

When I trained for my first bikini competition, I was really precise with hitting my macros for every meal. I weighed everything I ate, whether I was at home or eating out. Yep, I carried a scale in my purse.  It was literally the first time I had ever followed a specific nutrition plan and I had no idea how to eyeball portion sizes. It was needed for me to reach my goals.

How to Eat Out With a Nutrition Plan

When I started back with Ashley (my trainer) in January, the nutrition plan was one of the things I was a little reluctant about. It’s started to feel like a lot of work, so first I quit meal prep. Then I started traveling more for work and didn’t want to think about prepping all that food again. But I wanted to stick to my plan and reach my goals.

There had to be an alternative.

I met with Ashley to get her advice and she basically told me to stop stressing.  After weighing everything for months, I knew what 20 ounces of protein looked like for fish. Or 3 grams of carbs in asparagus. I knew how much protein was in an egg. I had learned a lot through all that planning and it was time to take it on the road. Other than the final week of prep, eyeballing the servings is good enough.

Know Your Favorites

There are a few foods that I know off the top of my head. It helps to think through the foods you eat most often and learn those when you’re home. Others I do a quick google search before ordering. Here are just a few that I know from memory:

  • 4-5 ounces of fish = size of my palm = about 20g of protein
  • 1 egg  = 6 grams of protein
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats = size of my fist = 20g of carbs
  • 1 ounce broccoli = half a fist = 3g of carbs
  • 3 ounces asparagus = 6-10 spears = 3g of carbs
  • 1 tablespoon of nut butter =  10g of fat
  • 2 tablespoons of avocado = 4.5g of fat

Depending on your macros, you can be pretty creative here. On high-carb days, I’ve googled carbs in waffles and biscuits to enjoy some delicious breakfasts out. Dinner is easy when ordering fish and veggies (just be careful about the oil & toppings). I’ll seek out sushi for a low-carb lunch and get a container of sashimi and edamame.

Preview the Menu

So many places have their menu online, so if you have flexibility on where to eat do a little research. Check a few menus and find one that has a meal that is closest to what you need. This can make the evening a lot easier, so you don’t have to think about it. I often think about ethnic foods that match my nutrition plan  and have had great success with Sushi (order sashimi), Southern Indian (lots of fish & veggies), and Seafood restaurants.

Ask Questions

Especially with food allergies being common today, servers are comfortable with answering questions these days. Ask what the dish is cooked in (oil or butter?), what is the protein topped with, and how large is the serving? The more you know, the better. If I know the serving is much larger than I want, I’ll ask them to box the extra before they bring it out. I have a hard time not cleaning my plate, so this one is a diet trick I stole from many before me. It works!

Make Changes!

Sometimes you’ll find exactly what you want on the menu. Other times, you may need to ask or some help from the kitchen. I got really comfortable with this when I ate a plant-based diet and it’s a great skill to have! I promise, most places are very accommodating. Find a dish that has the main components you are looking for and tell them what you need.

How to Eat Out With a Nutrition Plan

I hope you read this and thought, “Oh, right. That’s not hard at all!”. You probably already knew these tips if you thought about it, but I want to give you that extra reminder that I needed to make it happen. Making your nutrition plan a healthy diet that you can actually stick with is important to long-term changes. If it feels like too much work, it’s too easy to slide back to bad habits. At least for me!

One additional note – every meal you eat doesn’t have to be “on plan”. I hope you plan some freedom and fun in your diet. Until the last 5 weeks of my training, I had a cheat meal that I took very literally. Food is supposed to be enjoyed, but finding the balance that works for you is key!

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Questions for you:

  • How good are you at eating healthy when you’re out and about?
  • Do you feel comfortable asking for changes at a restaurant?
  • Any tips to add?
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  1. says

    Awesome! I am actually pretty good at all of these, yay! Although sometimes when I go out I let myself have whatever my heart desires…1500 calories and all! Thats one of the perks of running so much, and I feel like I earn it :) Thanks for sharing these, I am sure they will come in very useful! I am loving learning these little tidbits about your past by the way :)
    Tina Muir recently posted…Secrets to Success: Arm Strengthening ExercisesMy Profile

  2. says

    Good tips. The checking of the menu is a great tip for vegetarians/vegans eating out as well. And more and more restaurants are becoming more accommodating for special dietary needs. I’ve only tracked macros once and what helped me was also having a set of recipes that I built and knew all the breakdowns for.

  3. says

    This is pretty much how I live my life – especially the modifications! I have no shame in restaurants. I would add that – if you’re competing or have a reason to follow a strict plan – eyeballing is great after you’ve weighed for a while. It does take some practice to learn it, but makes like SO much easier!
    Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table recently posted…Emergen-Cs and Mock-tinisMy Profile

  4. Kristyn says

    Great info! Thanks for sharing! I have a question about macros. I have started tracking macros for the first time and was wondering if it is critical to hit the targeted macros for each meal or is it ok to just focus on the total daily macro target?
    Thanks!

    • says

      I think this really depends on your goals and your body. For me, I stick with nutrient timing at each meal without moving things around too much. When I move into off season, that will change and I’ll be a bit more lax.

    • says

      Plan ahead!! Talk with the person hosting to know what they are going to have, so you know going in what you’re planning to eat. then you can bring a dish to share that also fits your plan. I brought shrimp on a skewer to the last one I went to and ate lots of veggies off a plate someone brought to share. I wasn’t drinking then either, so I brought my own kombucha for some fun. :)

  5. says

    Great post for relaxing a bit and still being accountable for what you are putting in your body! I go back and forth between tracking everything and going with what I know. it is not fun to count all the time…sometimes, you just go for it!

  6. says

    great tips! from tracking our macros from time to time we have a good sense of what is in foods too :) but we are planners, so we try our best to look ahead of time at restaurants menus so we have an idea of what we might get. Though sometimes we don’t plan ahead, but we usually can make a dish to fit our needs :)
    hugs

  7. says

    Since beginning to eat Paleo last year, going out to eat always made me anxious. Thankfully, I was able to do pretty well when going out to eat since at many places you can easily order a meat protein with veggies. It’s awesome how accommodating many restaurants have become. Awesome tips and good reminders for myself!

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