Tyler Robbins Fitness

B.Sc. Biochemistry, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified CrossFit Trainer (CCFT/CF-L3), USA Weightlifting Level 1

Restaurant Tips

I personally try and limit the number of times I eat at a restaurant. There is no way to be certain exactly how unhealthy a meal at a restaurant could be. What I mean by this is that fat, sodium, and or carbohydrate levels could be through the roof of a seemingly healthy meal.

Having said that, I am human, and my wife and I enjoy going out every now and again, and I am sure many of you also enjoy eating at restaurants from time to time. Below are a few tips on how you can keep on track with healthy eating, yet still enjoy yourself. Not only that, you may also notice a decrease in your bill as well!

1 - Skip dessert
Desserts are great, we all love them. But many desserts found at sit-down restaurants are a calorie nightmare. Many of these desserts can contain anywhere from 500 to 2,000 extra calories, and that is after you have already completed your meal (likely high in calories as well). I would highly recommend skipping dessert altogether. You can avoid essentially doubling your caloric intake for your entire meal by skipping dessert. If you must indulge, for a special occasion for example, split the dessert amongst you and your spouse/kids/friends/etc. This way you still treat yourself without going overboard.

2 - It's okay not to eat it all!
Portion sizes really are getting out of control in today's society. This is fine if you are wanting to get your money's worth, but bad if you are trying to trim down your waistline. Most of us eat our meals based on how much food we have on our plates. This can become quite dangerous when a restaurant delivers a plate that is one and a half to two times the correct portion size.

With these very large portions, we have all ended up in that situation when we are about 3/4 of our way through a meal and get full. Now you are at that point of no return where there is not enough food to take home, but there is too much to waste, so you continue to eat until all of the food is gone, and your pants feel like they are going to explode at the seams. When you receive your meal, tell yourself that you are only going to eat 1/2 to 2/3 of the food on your plate, and you are going to take some home to put in the fridge to enjoy for lunch tomorrow.

3 - Personalize
It is not difficult to personalize your order at a restaurant, all you have to do is ask. For example, if you order a BLT, ask for mustard instead of mayo, and remove a couple strips of bacon and you have just cut your sandwich down by up to 400 calories. Once you begin to get the hang of it, you can start requesting things at restaurants such as swapping out regular for whole grain bread, or regular for whole grain pasta. If a restaurant does not fulfill your wishes, find one that does. Restaurants only serve what they know people want, so if they receive enough requests for whole grain pasta, they may start to offer it!

4 - Keep and eye on your sides
Try swapping out the fries or mashed potatoes for mixed or seasoned vegetables. You could even try and swap it out for a garden salad, but ask for the dressing on the side so you can apply a small amount yourself and not drown your salad like your chef might do.

5 - Thin crust
Having a plethora of healthy toppings on your pizza is not an issue, the thick doughy, greasy crust is! Order thin crust pizza and load up on the vegetable toppings as much as you can. Meat and cheese are ok too, just don't go overboard!

6 - Try the lunch menu
If you are out for lunch, this is a no brainer. But some restaurants will even allow you to order from their lunch menu at dinner time as well. The lunch menu is usually geared towards smaller portion sizes of their main dishes, but also at a reduced cost. Not only are you saving some calories, but you are saving some money as well.

7 - Ignore the kid's menu
Most kids menus are absolutely littered with junk. Restaurant chains know that kids have some of the biggest swing when it comes to choosing a place to eat for family outings, so they want to make them happy too, even sacrificing nutrition. Try either a tip from above, or a combination to fill your child's plate. Try these; portion sizes are generally too large, so share your meal with your child. Order a couple of healthy side dishes and create your own mini buffet at your own table where everyone can pick and choose what they wish to eat. Order from the lunch menu for your kid so that they have a smaller, and cheaper option.

8 - Water
Plain and simple, order water with your meal. The average Canadian drinks about 100 litres of pop a year, not to mention other sweetened drinks that are just as bad! That could add up to about 450 calories extra every day, or 47 additional pounds of energy a year that either you do, or do not burn off. You are loading up on calories with your meal as it is, try ordering water as it can have a reverse effect and actually help you lose weight!

9 - Supersize
All of the fast food chains do it. Now I am not advocating eating fast food, as I try and avoid it by all means necessary, but if you must, don't supersize. Sure, it sounds like a great deal, as you on average only have to spend 17 more cents for an additional 55 calories, but the meal will not be the only thing getting supersized in a hurry!

10 - Avoid handouts
Many restaurants offer free handouts before your meal such as fresh bread or salad. I would recommend avoiding at all costs, or limiting yourself, big time! These pre-meal snacks can really add up in the calorie department before your meal even begins. Try this, if you are a joint that you know offers free handouts, simply mention to the waiter/waitress that you do not wish to have any bread brought to your table. If it is not there, the better chance you have at not eating it.

11 - Enjoy the company
Yes, it is nice to enjoy a lunch out on the company, but that is not what I mean here. Enjoy the company that you are with whether it be your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, friends, family members, etc. It takes an average of 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that you are full, so take your time eating. We are very social creatures, and meals are a great way to bring you together to carry on conversation, rather than listening to all of you chew. Try this, after each bite, put your fork down and enjoy the food in your mouth, and talk with those you are out to dinner with. Chances are, you are going to become full before you finish your meal, then you can follow step #2 of this list.

12 - Avoid alcohol
Similar to tip #8, alcohol can really hit you where it hurts, your waistline. The average cocktail can contain anywhere from 200 to 500 calories which can really add up when added to a calorie-rich restaurant meal. Go for the water instead, your waistline will appreciate it, not to mention your bank account!

As stated previously, eating at restaurants can be an enjoyable experience. You don't have to cook, or do the dishes, and you can enjoy some time with family and friends in a different atmosphere than your same old kitchen or dining room. I get it, people like to eat at restaurants, and so do I, just keep things sensible by following the tips listed above, and you can greatly save in the calorie department!

-Tyler Robbins