How to Easily Dine Out and Stick to Your Diet

I remember the days of preparing my meals on Sundays and Wednesdays, cooking in bulk, portioning out my protein, fat and carbs.

For most of my career, I carried an Igloo Cooler to work everyday. That cooler even came with me when I was dressed in business attire.

Most days I’d just bring chicken or beef and vegetables. Once in a while, I’d bring leftovers, like the beef tongue tacos Vanessa had made the night before.

This is a little bonus tip: Never, ever, under any circumstance, reheat beef tongue and bring it to a meeting. I did. The smell was disturbing. Each person who walked in the board room turned green. By then, the damage was done, so I quietly ate my meal. I never did that again. You shouldn’t either. Steak is okay. Tongue, never!

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I got into a pattern of doing all that food prep on a regular schedule. It didn’t take a ton of time, and it probably saved a lot of money.

Now I work from home, with my gorgeous wife and business partner. The kitchen is right around the corner from our office.

And, we rarely cook.

We live downtown Minneapolis, where we can order from Bite Squad or Über Eats and have a good meal delivered in an hour or so. Or, we can walk a block or two and get an inexpensive meal from any of the dozens of restaurants nearby.

That got me thinking…

Back when I was training clients, one of the most common excuses I heard was that they couldn’t stick to their nutrition guidelines because they ate out all the time.

Back then, I rarely ate out, so I couldn’t see their point of view. Today, I can.

And I know that it’s possible to eat well while on the road or out to eat.

In fact, I probably eat healthier by eating out than if I were cooking at home. Here’s how:

Make a Decision Before You Get There

We waste a LOT of mental energy making decisions every day.

Even if the decisions aren’t related to nutrition, they will use up a lot of the mental energy you rely on for willpower.

If you go through a busy day of making decisions, and then go out for dinner, your decision-making muscles will be fatigued. That makes it harder to choose wisely off the menu.

The fewer options you leave yourself at the restaurant, the easier it will be to eat well.

Personally, I have three rules before I even look at the menu.

  1. No gluten
  2. No dairy
  3. High in protein

Those three decisions eliminate many of the “options” on the menu. Fewer options means less mental energy.

In the rare circumstance that none of the menu items fit those three requirements, I’ll have them modify a menu item. Most of the time, there are plenty of options to choose from, though.

The point is, if you have a few black and white guidelines in your mind before you open the menu, you won’t fall into temptation as easily.

Fill Up on Protein and Vegetables

The easiest way to limit your starchy carb intake is to eat a lot of protein and vegetables first. I always make sure I get at least 8-10 ounces of protein.

Often, that means I have to ask for a double portion of protein.

Eating a large portion of protein with your meal will help you feel full faster, as well as help you to slow the rise in blood sugar your body experiences from the carbs you do eat. Of course, protein is critical for gaining or maintaining muscle as well.

And it’s great for your metabolism.

If you don’t believe me, spend an hour or two eating at a Brazilian Steak House. The meat sweats in the hours afterwards should be good evidence.

The vegetables help with adding fiber to fill you up as well. Fiber is great for your gut bacteria, and has dozens of other health benefits.

Hard Liquor On the Rocks

If you’re going to drink, sip on gin, vodka, or tequila. You could also mix it with soda water (not tonic, as that is loaded with sugar).

If you’re over the age of 24, you probably won’t slam it, so you should end up drinking less.

There’s no sugar like a lot of other alcoholic beverages, and there’s no gluten like most beers.

Red wine is reasonable as well. I don’t drink it that often as it always gives me a headache, but if you like it, go for it.

One glass for women and one to two glasses for men is okay. Some research suggests there could be some heath benefits.

More than that is looking for trouble. It leads to extra calories, disrupted sleep, and can contribute to undesirable hormonal changes.

It also adds a ton to the cost of the meal at the end, so if you’re on a budget, skipping the alcohol is a great way to save money.

Watch Your Language

I’m not talking about avoiding profanity. I do indulge in a cuss word now and then myself.

I’m referring to something different. Conscious language; being aware of how you talk about yourself and your circumstances.

If you say, “I can’t stick to my nutrition plan because I eat out a lot,” you convince yourself that it isn’t possible, even if what you’re saying isn’t true.

Eating out doesn’t cause you to eat poorly does it?

Perhaps you are influenced by those you go out to eat with. By admitting that is an issue, you take away some of the power it has over you.

You realize that your health is being shaped by other people, not by your own conscious choice.

The way you describe your eating habits, and the challenges you face in making good choices, have a significant effect on your thoughts and choices.

What you put in your mouth is your choice. My friend, the late Charles Poliquin often said, “Nobody ever got mugged by eating a donut.”

The way you speak about your eating patterns is also a choice, a conscious decision. The more you talk about what you can do, and how you will eat well when you eat out, the more you’ll set yourself up for success.

Start talking about how you rock at eating at restaurants. Become a master at the menu.

Jared lost weight by eating Subway, and that breaks all three of the rules I have for myself from above. That food’s got gluten, dairy, and very little protein.

I’m sure you can get lean and healthy by eating at the restaurants you’re eating at.