When life gets busy, our priorities shift and we often allow our health to take a backseat. Yes, it’s a choice. Forgetting to eat, reaching for something just because it’s there (irrespective of nutritional value) or intentionally skipping meals, which often results in a later binge. Who’s been there? [Raises hand]
To avoid any of the situations I’ve described above, BE PREPARED. This means having fat-loss friendly snacks accessible to you wherever you are: at the office, in the car or at the airport, for example. My purse is always stashed with snacks so that I never find myself stuck (Guys: you carry a backpack… or briefcase, do you not?). Nuts, protein bars, single serving packets of protein powder and low-sweet fruits are a few of my favorites. And my latest obsession? Jerky, says the former vegetarian. Lol. Who am I?
A few things worth mentioning about the to-go snacks listed above. First, nuts are primarily fat, yes. But 1) your body needs fat and 2) eating fat will NOT make you fat. Just watch the serving size, sodium (salt) if you can, but don’t stress too much over the latter. If they’re super salty, chug some H20. I prefer raw unsalted, or dry roasted [DIY option: 350°F x 10 minutes. If you’re looking for more flavor, try this: spread raw unsalted almonds (or nut of choice) evenly on cookie sheet, spray with non-stick spray (i.e. coconut oil spray, or PAM) and toss with cinnamon OR unsweetened cocoa powder, and stevia. Follow baking instructions above.] Next, not all protein bars are created equal; some are loaded with sugar. While I don’t recommend one everyday, they’re a huge CONVENIENCE food for me. Pick your nutrition battles. A few, or more, of my favorites? ThinkThin, Quest, Oh Yeah! Victory, Luna Protein and Balance (cookie dough, in the latter four brands lol, = ahh-mazing!). If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to the single serving packets of protein, pre-portioning your own into Ziploc baggies does the trick. Works in a pinch, and all you need to add is water. Lastly, apples, pears and grapefruits top my list of easily transportable fruits. Bananas do not.
If you have refrigerator access away from home, grilled chicken breasts, plain low-fat Greek yogurt (spice things up with cinnamon + stevia, to taste) and hard-boiled eggs are additional protein-packed options that require little to no prep. And any prep that is required can be accomplished in an hour, two tops, on the weekend or whenever works best with YOUR schedule. If you’re looking for a little crunch, pre-washed [fibrous] veggies are a great option. Add protein for some staying power. If you don’t have a refrigerator available to you, a lunch box or cooler with an ice pack will suffice.
With regard to meal prep, it works for some but is not for everyone. Some weeks I prep more than others but on the weeks that I do, I set aside a chunk of time first thing Saturday morning to meal plan and grocery shop. I prep Sundays then throw everything into either Tupperware or Ziplocs for the week. I don’t enjoy it, per se, but it makes life during the week so easy. Salad in less than 5 minutes? Yes, please!
If prepping isn’t your thing, or you really just hate cooking, here are some tips for eating out. Be it at the dining hall, a fast food joint, five-star restaurant or even a gas station, you can always make a better choice!
1. Protein and veggies first.
3. Say ‘NO’ to the bread basket. If you still want it after you’ve had your meal, then you can ask for it. Chances are though that if you’ve made a protein and veggie-dense selection, you’ll be both satisfied AND satiated by meal’s end.
4. Choose salads over sandwiches, regardless of the bread options available to you. Some places will even turn your sandwich into a salad, free of charge. There are salad options EVERYWHERE.
5. Limit the alcohol. Instead of three glasses of wine, try one. Instead of every night, try every other, once a week and/or special occasions. Mixed drinks are delicious, yes, but loaded with sugar. Also, alcohol OR starch, not both. [See #2]
6. Hydrate. Lots and lots of water! It keeps your system running efficiently and can curb hunger (especially while waiting for your food), but also helps to combat the high sodium content in a lot of heavily processed fast foods. So….drink up! Try it with a slice of lemon or lime for a little flavor.
7. On indulging. The fact that the dessert menu will always be offered to you at the conclusion of your meal does NOT mean you have to order something, or even look at it! But if you do choose to indulge, ENJOY it, GUILT-FREE, and MOVE ON. Try sharing with your dinner date, or limiting it to a few bites. Bear in mind that something rich will leave your palette more satisfied than just any mediocre sugar-laden selection. Be picky and ask yourself, “is this really worth it?” A single indulgence will only derail you from your fat-loss lifestyle if you let it. You can be back on track with clean eats at your very next meal. And if you’re one of those people who reaches for a post-dinner little something out of HABIT, catch yourself and instead try a cup of dessert coffee or tea, or even my go-to cocoa drink either out or at home. More on the health benefits of cocoa, here and here.
I’m not saying to never indulge, or to cut everything cold turkey. In fact, I’d recommend against the latter. Make small changes. If you’re going to indulge, for example, try limiting it to one of the three: alcohol, bread OR dessert. It’s only one meal and there’ll be other meals out. You don’t have to have it all at once, even IF your brain is telling you otherwise. You’ll survive. I promise. 😉
8. Modify. And modify, again. I am the queen bee of modifications while dining out. Most restaurants are happy to accommodate the request(s) of their patrons, but they usually won’t offer it unless you ask. Sometimes, there’s a small up charge but it’s certainly worth the extra few $. For example: dressing on the side (avoid the creamy stuff, go for the vinigraiettes; or, just oil and vinegar- balsamic is my fave!), steamed or grilled vs. sautéed, creamed or fried, hold the bun (or croutons on a salad– aren’t there only ever a few anyway?! Chances are you won’t even miss them!), double protein, and/or extra veggies or side salad to sub for a starchy side.
9. Use the ME Label Rule. Tired of counting calories? For anything with a nutrition label:
Take the total CARBOHYDRATES, subtract out the FIBER (including sugar alcohols) and subtract total PROTEIN from that. That number should be ≤10. Negative numbers are BEST!
=Carbohydrates – Fiber (incl. any sugar alcohols) – Protein ≤ 10
Total fat should be ≤15g and sodium ≤200 mg. Foods that fall into this category help to balance HUNGER, ENERGY and CRAVINGS. With those three things balanced, it is much easier to *burn fat* and *drop lbs*!
Eating out shouldn’t and doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. I hope this helps get you started on navigating the menu next time your find yourself Tupperware-less and away from the comforts of your own kitchen and food.
Does eating out stress you out? How do you navigate the menu out? Interested to hear your thoughts!