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Eating out often is the biggest challenge when you’re trying to build new lifestyle habits, become healthier and lose fat. Normally there are two ways people approach this when on a “diet”: they either cut all social gatherings for a limited period of time so they can stay on track, or they don’t and use these occasions as “treat days”.
Both approaches have their benefits when executed mindfully, however they both carry risks as well. If you’ve restricted yourself from something you normally like doing, chances are you are going to overindulge and binge the first time when you go out again only to feel bad about it later. Treat meals can have their place in a well-structured diet, but they carry the same risk, at the end of a very busy week you may not be able to stop yourself from overeating on a night out.
If socialising and eating out are crucial part of your life, you are better considering how you can incorporate them into your new lifestyle and still stay on the healthy side. Here are 5 tips to help you set yourself up for success, even when eating out regularly.
1. Plan in advance
Introduce strategically structured night outs into your lifestyle, plan where you will be going, roughly how much and what meals you will be eating there and make sure you eat as normal throughout the day so you are not starving when you arrive to the restaurant. Check the menu before you get there and decide what you will be eating. If you realise you may be having more foods on that day, consider eating a little less than normal the day before, or cut a snack for three days.
2. Focus on healthy choices from the menu
Most restaurants, even fast-food chains offer better options nowadays. Order extra portion vegetables or salads. Choose soup or salad for starters, or order two starters instead of a main meal. Always look for lean protein and vegetables first, then fibrous carbohydrates second.
3. Swap calorie, fat and sugar packed foods
Choose grilled or roasted instead of fried, tomato and vinegar based dressings instead of creamy sauces or mayonnaise. Instead of pizza, go for the burger and where possible, lose the bun and fries and swap for salad. Make sure you have plenty of green veggies on your plate. Skip dessert and have a hot drink, or go for a fruit packed pudding, sorbet instead of sticky cakes and ice cream.
4. Control your portion size
Many restaurants provide portion sizes that are enough for two adults. Feel free to ask for sharing options or packing half of your meal before it even hits your table. Don’t order dessert until after you finished your main dish. You may not need it at all. Drink plenty of water before and during meal. Eat slowly and chew your food properly so your body will have time to realise when it’s time to stop. You don’t need to clear your plate if you’re full. Ask the staff to pack the leftovers for you.
5. Opt for low-calorie drinks
Ideally avoid sugar packed soft drinks, juices and alcohol and drink water. If you need to have some taste, choose low-calorie options, go for flavoured water or limit your juice intake in one glass. If you must drink alcohol, ask for a glass of wine or prosecco. If you’re not fond of those you can choose vodka or gin with slim soda or tonic. Avoid sugary cocktails or pints of beer as those will double your calorie intake for the night.
When in the process of changing your lifestyle to become healthier the smallest improvement in your diet can have a big impact on your overall health. The best way to approach this is to take as little or as big steps at a time as you can easily handle without hitting the wall. If that means having one less meal out per week or just one less beer than normal, that’s already better than the week before. Keep repeating consistently and you’ll be in a much better position in a month time.
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