Will Dining Out Stall My Progress?
Eating out: does it stall or ruin fitness progress?
How often are you eating out each week?
When answering this question, make sure you include ANY food prepared by someone else who is not a family member. This includes: ALL fast food and take out, sugary designer coffees, teas, and smoothies, grocery store salad bars, the lunch truck or cafeteria at work, and of course dine-in establishments.
What did you come up with? A 2016 poll showed that the average American is eating four to five commercially prepared meals every week.
Will eating out ruin your progress? If you're eating out as often as the average FORGET PROGRESS...there's no such thing! No amount of exercise or even the "semi-clean" eating you might do at home is going to help.
So before I tell you about my favorite healthy-ish fast food meals, I absolutely have to throw this out there: If you are eating out more than once or twice a week, reaching your health and fitness goals will be next to impossible!
The best thing you can do for you health is cook real food...at home...most of the time.
My Top Three Reasons to Cook at Home:
3. You save money. Yes, shopping for healthy foods at the grocery store is getting ever more pricey. But with a little bit of advance planning, it still saves you money. It saves you money today on food and tomorrow on health care and medical bills.
2. You control the portions. It’s no secret that restaurants are serving up double, triple and sometimes quadruple portions. Yes, it's still possible to overeat certain foods at home (bread, pasta, and desserts are common), but studies indicate that you are less likely to serve yourself the same enormous portions that you’ll get in a restaurant. Allowing someone else to dish up massive portions of food and put it in front you, simply put, will lead you to eat more than you need.
1. You control the ingredients. Unless you’re eating at one of those posh farm-to-table joints, it’s a good bet many of the foods on the menu are full of the crazy chemicals and preservatives so ubiquitous in processed foods these days. Would you really add Butylated Hydroxyanisole, Sodium Benzoate, or Yellow #5 to your food at home? Probably not. But you can be sure these types of food colorings, preservatives, and chemicals can be found in restaurant food.
Additionally, you have little control over HOW the food is prepared. Did they saute your greens in gobs of butter? Do they use soybean oil to make their “homemade” salad dressing? How much dressing is on that salad anyway? About 20 tablespoons?
Whether the goal is weight loss or general health, eating out more than twice a week just doesn’t fit into that equation.
And believe me, I’ve heard all the excuses and arguments:
- “The menu is gluten/fat/sugar free.”
- “I skipped dessert.”
- “I got a salad.”
- “There are healthy items on most menus.”
- “I can just order the healthiest option I can find.”
How’s that working for you? Have you been able to make healthy choices when eating out? Or is every excursion a “special occasion”? Are you at your ideal weight? Are you healthy? Do you feel good? Does your skin look good? Do you feel energetic?
Bottom Line: If your goal is to be healthy, energetic, ageless, and lean...you MUST reduce your reliance on processed foods, fast food, and eating out.
I’m not saying you can never eat out or eat fast food. In fact, I tell my clients: there are no foods or restaurants that are off limits.
If results are what you’re after, you must create a lifestyle that is congruent with your goals.
I used to eat out 3 or 4 times per week. I was also 25 pounds heavier, had adult acne, and was exhausted all the time. Fast forward to today and I still LOVE to eat out! I LOVE IT! I’m a foodie!
I'm an adult. I know what's good for me and what's not. I value my health. I value my fitness. I value my body. I value my ability to engage in hobbies that I love (playing with my daughter at the park, kayaking, hiking, etc.). That means sometimes I have to make tough choices to live a lifestyle that is congruent with my values.
What that means to me right now is eating out once a week. It's usually date night for my husband and me, and I get whatever I want. I usually have a glass of wine, a dish of pasta or some really good bread, and always dessert. But the buck stops there. The next morning I'm right back on track...and usually happy about it because eating that processed stuff makes me feel terrible!
If you dine out more than once a week it’s no longer a “special occasion” and you actually will need to make better choices!
On the odd week where I end up eating out more than once, I try to do these three things: 1.) choose a restaurant that I know has “healthier” options, 2.) pre-plan what I’ll order, and 3.) make it the healthiest option possible.
So what are my favorite places to get good grub without having to loosen my belt a notch (or five)?
Note: the following restaurants offer some great healthy options…but also have plenty of unhealthy options! WHAT you order is as important as WHERE you are eating!
My number one choice has got to be Chipotle.
And I’m not getting kickbacks from them (unfortunately). Most people don’t think of Mexican-style food as being healthy…and most of it isn’t. But there are several things about Chipotle that I like:
- You can “create your own”, which gives you some control over what you get.
- They do their best to source high quality meats and ingredients.
- The ingredients are simple, fresh, and delicious!
What I order at Chipotle: The Chicken Burrito Bowl. Double chicken, no rice, no beans, double fajita veggies, fresh tomato salsa, green tomatillo salsa, lots of lettuce on top, and cheese, sour cream, and guacamole on the side.
What to avoid at Chipotle: the massive tortilla wraps, chips, chorizo, white rice, sodas, beer, and margaritas
My next favorite is Panera.
My reasons for liking Panera are similar to the reasons I like Chipotle:
- Many of the items are made to order, so you have some control over what you get.
- They do their best to source high quality meats and ingredients.
- They have simple, fresh, and yummy options that just happen to be healthy.
What I order at Panera: The You Pick Two Black Bean Soup and half Strawberry Poppyseed Salad with Chicken, and an apple for my side.
What to avoid at Panera: The bagels, baguettes, pastries, cookies, smoothies, mac and cheese, cream-based soups, breakfast soufflés, chicken cobb salad, southwest chile lime ranch salad, and most of the sandwiches.
Yes, you can eat out and be fit and healthy, but to do so you must choose wisely!
It’s totally okay to eat what you want for the occasional treat meal or a true special occasion. But if you’re having “special occasion” meals three, four, and five times per week, you’ve got a problem…especially if your goals include being healthy, energetic, and losing weight.