Healthy eating does not require complete seclusion. The idea behind eating healthy, and being healthy, is that you can enjoy life. Socializing and dining out are a common part of life in all developed countries. The chance to relax and enjoy a meal that someone else prepares makes dining out an enjoyable treat. Even bodybuilders and the “health nut” needs to be able to eat out at times.
Most restaurants are not diet-friendly for the bodybuilder. Foods in a restaurant are usually high in calories and fat. Restaurants spend a lot of time and money on developing food that tastes good, without a lot of regard for the health of the food. Customers come to the restaurants for the taste, and they don’t survive if the customers don’t come. That is why they use ingredients in their foods that are high in fats and sugar, and consequently taste, to make the food more flavorful.
This does not mean that bodybuilders need to avoid restaurants all together. Healthy eating can still be accomplished while eating out, it just takes a little pre-planning and a careful scanning of the menu. The planning starts with the restaurant selection. In today’s market, restaurants have to offer healthy or light choices on the menu. Those that don’t risk losing a lot of potential customers. The key is choosing a restaurant that has healthy choices that you enjoy. Eating something, just because it is the only healthy choice, is not really enjoying the experience of eating out.
Mental preparation is an important step in maintaining a healthy diet while eating out. The sights and smells in the restaurant are bound to tempt you. That creamy fettuccini alfredo the waitress carries by will have your taste buds watering. Ask for a seat as far from the kitchen as possible. Sit near the window so you look out the window instead of at other plates. Take the time to remind yourself why you are eating healthy and set your mind right. Enjoy the experience of dining out and focus on the companionship and atmosphere, not food.
Avoid appetizers and breads that add a lot of extra calories to the meal before it really begins. Have a salad instead of fried appetizers. Cut out the extras on the salad (croutons, meat, fried chicken, etc.) and ask for the dressing on the side. Baked or broiled, plain (unbreaded) choices are best. Avoid heavy creams and sauces that add tons of calories. Fish or chicken make a good dish, with a light lemon or olive oil dressing. Add some steamed vegetables for some color and fresh flavor, without adding many extra calories. If you see something you like on the menu ask for it to be prepared your way. If the cook won’t do it then ask for a manager, explain your situation, and offer to go to a rival restaurant if they won’t help you out. This is usually enough to get your meal your way.
Water is the best drink choice. Add some lemon for flavor, if you wish. Diet iced tea is another good choice. Diet sodas are less healthy but will not add a lot of extra calories. Regular sodas are never a good choice because they add a lot of useless calories (as many as 250 per glass.) Fruity drinks and creamy shakes are definite calorie traps. Alcohol in strict moderation might be okay occasionally, however, the calories must be counted.
One major problem with eating out is the obligation to clean the plate. Many people feel that if they paid for it they must eat it. Instead, just eat until you are comfortable (not stuffed), then have the rest of it bagged up and take it home with you for a meal later. It is actually a good practice to leave a little food on the plate. Skip dessert. Most restaurant desserts are very large and high in calories (and often quite expensive.) Remind yourself that the money spent for the meal was for the atmosphere and the convenience of having someone else cook.
Don’t be afraid of eating out. It is easy to maintain a healthy diet and build muscle without gaining fat when dining out as long as you plan ahead and take the time to study the menu. Program yourself to focus on a healthy eating plan and you will find the enjoyment of eating out again, without sacrificing your hard work.