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Day 12 [Nutrition] SG NY Kickstart Challenge – Restaurant Survival Guide


Welcome to day 12!

While eating out every second night may not be the best decision for your health, having a thriving social life is certainly an integral part of living a healthy lifestyle.

That’s why I think that knowing how to confidently eat out at most restaurants without “falling off the wagon” is critical. You shouldn’t need to abandon your diet or be that weirdo with your Tupperware under the table in order to go out to eat.

So, first of all, I want to reassure you that with the right strategies, there will almost always be something good enough that you can eat at any restaurant.

But, with that said, some restaurants will definitely be easier to get healthy meals from than others. For example, you will probably find a steakhouse or a seafood restaurant easier to deal with than a restaurant specialising in a specific cuisine such as Italian or Indian.

That’s why I suggest that, if possible, before you go out try to look at the menu online so that you know exactly what you can and will order.

Figure out a Plan A meal and also have a back-up Plan B meal incase your first choice is not possible or available anymore.

Apart from making sure that the restaurant has what you want to eat, pre-selecting what you are going to order also makes any other off-limit foods at the restaurant less tempting because you’ve already made the decision and you don’t need to battle with willpower in the heat of the moment.

I’m going to give you some suggestions on what to order just now, but first, let’s talk about actually ordering your food.

If you’re polite, friendly, and ask nicely then your waiter will almost always be willing to accomodate a custom order. You may need to pay a little bit extra, but that’s reasonable, and the grand scheme of things it really won’t be that much more.

I do suggest that you try and keep your order as short and to the point as possible though. Don’t get carried away and make your order super confusing or long as this will test the waiter’s patience and also increase the chance of the kitchen getting your order wrong.

And then just my two cents, acknowledging the waiter’s efforts and tipping well if they get your order right will make it easier for you and others to order healthier custom meals from them in the future.

OK, so what should you order?

Well, you can still use the Sleekgeek Healthy Meal Template as a way to format your meal when eating out. You know, protein + veg + carbs + fats.

I suggest that you always start with protein.

Look for protein-dense choices like steak, chicken, eggs, fish and other seafood, or tofu, etc.

See if you can get your protein as close to its “origin” as possible such as a plain steak, steamed fish, or grilled chicken breast as opposed to a steak covered in cheese and mushroom sauce, deep fried fish, or a crumbed chicken breast.

You probably want to skip anything that has the words “fried”, “cheesy”, “crispy”, “glazed”, or “secret blend” which will help you save yourself from eating hundreds of unwanted calories or added sugar.

Don’t stress too much about finding the exact palm-size portion of protein as this could really confuse the waiter, but thankfully very often restaurants will portion their protein into fairly moderate amounts anyways.

Next, load up with veg.

Simply ask to swap the chips or starchy side out for some kind of salad or cooked veg. No matter what you order at a restaurant, loading up on veggies to eat first is a great way to prevent yourself from overeating on more calorie-dense parts of the meal.

Something you can ALWAYS say at any restaurant is “Please can I have an extra side of veggies with that? I’m willing to pay a little more if need be.” Easy.

Now for the carbohydrates.

When it comes to your carbs, looking for high-fibre, slow-digesting, minimally processed options are key. These will likely come in lower quantities while also helping you to feel fuller and more satiated.

If you can’t find any decent choices, just skip them and move on. It’s not the end of the world if you eat a low-carb meal once in a while. Don’t worry, you won’t turn into a Banter or lose all of your gains!

Great choices for carbohydrates when eating out include more starchy kind of veg, beans and legumes, fruit, or whole-grains like quinoa, oats, and brown rice. Even whole grain bread can work well too, although it’s not something that we usually recommend.

Just make sure that carbohydrates aren’t the main focus of the meal. For example, a small side of brown rice should be an OK portion size, but a dish that is built around rice with a little bit of protein or veg added in is probably too much.

So now what about fats?

Well, finding healthy fats can be pretty hard when it comes to eating out. And when you do find something like avo or nuts or olive, it’s very often in much bigger portions than the 1-2 thumbs of fat that we recommend.

This is why I suggest that you don’t worry too much about healthy fats when eating out with the exception of opting for olive oil and vinegar as a simple salad dressing. Of course, if you prefer to follow a higher-fat and lower-carb diet, then making opting for less or no carbs you will be able to accommodate a more fat-dense meal.

There is a very good chance that your meal will be cooked in some kind of fat or oil anyways. Unfortunately most restaurants will use cheaper soy or sunflower oil, and this is not really something that the waiter can change very easily. Kitchens have a very specific work flow that help them put out consistent good quality meals very quickly and any kind of disruption to this could cause huge problems for them.

But, if it’s a more health-conscious or upmarket restaurant then there is still a good chance that they will use better quality ingredients like coconut oil, olive oil, or real butter.

Ultimately, your main focus should always be protein and veg when eating out. The carbs and fats are more optional and not the end of the world if you can’t get them right for one meal.

When you go out, just do your best and don’t sweat the small stuff. The goal is to actually make some kind of effort while eating out, rather than being “all-or-nothing” about it.

And ENJOY your meal out!

See you tomorrow. Cheers!