Eating at home is usually the easiest part for people when wanting to get in shape. But many of us like to socialise over food, have working lunches or just grab a bite when rushing around. Coaching clients ask me a lot of questions about how to eat out in a healthy way and what to choose and avoid. Part of the trick is education and the rest is simply being more mindful of the choices you are making every day. So here we go, my 5 top tips for eating away from home: -
- Minimise processed foods - Try and picture the number of steps away from its natural state something is. For example, grilled meats (taken from an animal and cooked - 2 steps) but a burger is meat taken from an animal which is then minced, combined with eggs, bread crumbs, moulded in to a burger shape and cooked (lots of steps). That's not to say that less natural foods/meals are bad, just a worse choice than something less played with.
- Drink plenty - Add in one or two low calorie drinks like water, sugar free squashes and diet fizzy drinks/sodas. This will help keep you hydrated, feeling fuller and manage your overall food intake.
- Choose a lean protein base where possible - Fish, seafood, chicken, turkey, red meat cuts (with the fat removed), lentils, beans, Greek yoghurt, and so on. This will help you control your calorie intake and keep you fuller for longer.
- Add colourful veggies and/or salad to fill out meals - You'll get more good nutrients from these than high fat and high carb choices like onion rings, piles of chips and super creamy or sweet sauces. It's not easy all the time, I get it, but you'll find it easier with practise. That's not because carbs are bad, but combining them with high fat foods is a sure fire way to eat too much. And eat your veggies first - the start of a meal is when you're hungriest and chewing the colourful stuff will start to fill you up and maybe help you eat less of the high fat/high carb things on your plate.
- Sauces - Most are fine in moderation but chances are something which is really creamy or a sweet & sticky sauce is likely to be a worse choice. If there's no choice you could remove some of it or leave the sauciest bits. A little won't hurt, just find a balance between enjoyment and moving towards your goals.
There's no rocket science here, just simple steps and a bit of knowledge to help you make better choices when put on the spot. Try and prioritise nutrient dense foods over high calorie options and put a focus on valuable protein, veg and water intake. Eating out is great and I'd always encourage people do it, just be mindful of what you're putting in your mouth - after all, that's the one thing ONLY YOU can control.
Written by Ben Lawrence, Precision Nutrition Certified Coach