Dining out can be bit of a challenge when you’re trying to get in shape for the summer. So how do you find the balance between being healthy and enjoying the chance to eat out? Eevee’s resident fitness guru, Sam Cranny-Evans explains….
In the past we have discussed various diet principles, basic rules which will help you to achieve your health and fitness goals. Still, many of you will find, as I do with many of my clients, that even the most basic rules are forgotten the moment you step foot in a restaurant. As I write this, I am sat in a relaxed little Belgian café set in the beautiful surroundings of Canterbury. This place bakes its own bread every day. It’s home to a master French patisserie and a offers a collection of 200 different beers! The sun is shining and the air is filled with the relaxed tones of people enjoying their afternoon. Against such a backdrop, it is understandable that your diet may begin to slip. For me, it is cutting season. A time when I give up eating whatever I like, begin running 4-5 times a week and spend a lot of the day just a little hungry, so the temptation of fresh bread and some of the world’s best beers is difficult to overcome. Fortunately for me, this is kind of my job, so eating well in a restaurant is not that hard to do. However, for those of you who enjoy eating healthily but are unwilling to let it spoil a night out, here’s Eevee’s guide to eating out:
1. Avoid Alcohol
Most nights out involve alcohol. To start with, there is no good or bad option for drinks. Alcohol is made with sugar which will make you fat if it isn’t used. However, you CAN start your night with a few alternatives so that your body can get a few more nutrients in before the drinking begins. Try a glass of milk, some green tea with honey and ice, or ask the barman to squeeze half a lemon in to sparkling water. Why? Milk contains protein and healthy fats, green tea-anti oxidants, and lemon water detoxifies the blood and organs!
A heavy night out will probably also mean that you end up straying past some kind of kebab house called ‘Munchies’ or ‘Northern Kebabs.’ This is perhaps the hardest challenge known to man – no round of Total Wipeout compares. The trick is to stockpile food at home. If you are a disciple of the Paleo diet, keep some cauliflower base pizzas, or a couple of meaty steaks in the fridge – food so tempting that a donner kebab with chilli sauce and garlic mayonnaise is the last thing you can imagine yourself eating. Think of yourself as Gordon Ramsey, not Bear Grylls. Finally, you should stockpile some blueberries. After you have cooked your steak, eaten your oat flour cookies or both, you should sit down and eat some blueberries. The detoxing effects will take the edge off of that hangover and guarantee that you get back in the gym the next day.
2. You Are What You Eat
Restaurant menus are inherently unhealthy. Most Italian menus are based around starchy carbs – which are a nightmare late in the evening. Chips will feature on many menus, as will sautéed potatoes and creamy sauces. So if you’re struggling to know what to order, here are a few ways to make some popular cuisines as healthy as possible:
Italian:Italian themed restaurants are a real pain; pasta is just about my favourite food. So how should you handle these places? Well, keep the pasta, but ask the waiter for half a portion and replace the rest with some leafy greens. Sauce wise, aim for pesto or tomato based sauces. And at all times, maximise the protein intake.
Indian food: This is possibly the easiest culinary option. Aim for foods that are flavoured, like chicken tikka – something that’s cooked in its own juices and comes without sauce. Then combine that with some basmati rice. All you have to avoid is the poppadoms and naan and you’re all set.
Burgers/American style food: These options are difficult, however, there is a positive route to take. Burgers are stacked full of protein, as is cheese. For a healthier option, see if the bun can be replaced with mushrooms or lettuce, try not to use too much chutney or ketchup, and replace chips with mash or veg. (This happens to be one of my favourite meals!) Plus, you can transfer this principle to most other meals, steak…chicken…fish – even a hot dog! Just make sure to replace any cream based sauces with a butter alternative!
Chinese food: Unfortunately, a lot of the Chinese food cooked for the Western world seems to be either deep fried, or covered in batter. This complicates things. My advice to you would be to look for those dishes which come out in those remarkably dangerous griddles, sizzling, spitting and popping oil all over you and the waiter. Failing this, you could try a nice Tom Yum soup with metabolism boosting chilli in it, or any kind of steamed fish. Limit your carbs to boiled or steamed rice, and wash it all down with plenty of green tea!
3. Delicious Dessert
Here’s my view as a professional – many people (including myself) will become moody or depressed and tired when desserts are absolutely off limits. So when it comes to dessert, I think you should be honest with yourself. How much sugar have you had in the last four days? How much do you want to look like a super hero? Am I training and dieting hard enough that a little slip will not impact upon my progress? When trying to improve your body and lifestyle, it is more important to be really honest with yourself than it is to….well, it’s just really important. So if you have answered all of those questions and have decided “yes, I want a pudding,” what should you do? Well here’s my advice…Just go for it, enjoy a nice creamy rich dessert. YOLO, right? There are also a few benefits to a treat at the end of a meal: It renews your energy and enthusiasm for the diet, it may keep those sugar cravings at bay for a few days, and finally, you are likely to experience a surge in glycogen stores, which will help to get the most out of your precious workout time for a few days.
So there you go, a few ways to simplify your summer diet and manage temptations – but I have one piece of advice. The vast majority of you reading this are not professional athletes. Your nutritional programmes most probably have to fit around a full day of work or your family life. These things can cause stress, so don’t steer clear of dining out just because you feel that it will damage your progress. Relaxation is essential to success, and failure to do so can be as harmful as eating that sloppy pizza from a kebab house! So do go out and enjoy yourself, make the most of your life and maintain a healthy body whilst doing it!
For a free nutrition plan which can help you lose 7lbs in ten days, or help with your training, just email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org