Eating Outside Your Normal Environment

Many of you may be meeting family and friends at restaurants or outside of your normal environment as we approach the 4th of July and vacations this summer. 

If you are working toward a fitness goal, restaurants may pose a threat.  While convenient and equipped with generally healthy food, it’s easy to be a victim to social pressures, outrageous portions, and mindless eating cues.

If your life is busy, you may spend more time than you would like at restaurants or eating carry-out.  Let’s review tips to make restaurants work for you and your goals.

HOW you eat trumps WHAT you eat

There are NO bad foods.  Just bad portions.  This concept is essential!

No single food item out of context can be healthy or unhealthy without taking into account the totality of what you do. 

There will be scenarios where you lack control and need skills to fall back on. 

Here they are:


Eat leisurely and enjoy your food.

Eat to satisfaction, not stuffed.


This makes YOU the boss of your body and what goes in it.  You become more aware, enjoy more, reach satisfaction earlier, and curtail calories.

The catch: it’s not easy.

Eating at restaurants and other social events tempt us to eat more and to eat faster – causing a surplus of calories to sneak in undetected.

Search for the Trifecta

  • Lean proteins
  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Slow digesting grains like beans, (sweet) potatoes, or whole grains

Think about any fast-food restaurant for a minute.  A kids meal is an adult appropriate portion and a value meal is a family-appropriate portion.  

Here is a great infographic to help determine portion sizes (again, if you monitor HOW you eat, you may decide more or less is appropriate).


Men start with 2 palm-sized servings, and ladies start with 1 palm-sized serving.


Men start with 2 fist-sized servings and ladies start with 1 fist-sized serving.


Men start with 1-2 cupped handfuls, and ladies start with 1 cupped handful.


You shouldn’t need any extra.  Many restaurant foods have hidden amounts (more below).

Ask Questions

Know what you are ordering.  Then ask for what you want.

  • How are the veggies prepped?  Any chance I could get them steamed?
  • Can you put the condiments/cheese/sauces on the side?
  • Is the chicken breaded?  Can you do it grilled/blackened?

Ordering off the menu may seem nit-picky and annoying, but it prevents unwanted calories and sodium consumption.

How to Defuse Questions and Stick to Your Choices

Friends, family, and co-workers can be well-meaning, but really sabotaging you.  Here are some rebuttals you can use to defuse the situation and stay your course.

Many times they are unaware:

Hey, don’t let this go to waste.  Take some with you.”

“OMG, you have to try this, it’s so delicious!”

Sometimes, they are in your face about it:

“What, are you on some kind of diet?  That’s stupid.  You can have ONE bite.”

“Don’t ask Sally if she wants any, she’s on a diet.”

Whatever the case, just stay cool and respond in kind:

“No thanks, I’m happy with my meal – thanks for the offer though!”

“Those look great, but I’ll pass this time around. Thanks anyway.”

“They are tasty, but I don’t feel awesome after I eat them.”

Of course, some will push your buttons even further.  It’s not always fun, but stay assertive and if necessary figure out what their motive is for being so relentless.

“Shoo fly! You need to let this one go.”

“You are very persistent. Why is it so important to you that I take a bite?”

Only your actions are under your control.  

Other tips:

Watch for health claims such as:

    • Weight-watchers points
    • Healthy option
    • Vegetarian choice

Be curious of flowery language:

    • Succulent
    • Creamy/rich
    • Cheesy
    • Sautéed/Sizzling
    • “Piled High”
    • Tender
    • Crispy

Soup and Salad

    • Often masquerading as a healthy and low-calorie option.  
    • Choose soups without cream based broths, no cheese on top, and full of veggies and beans.
    • Salads can quickly become a high-calorie choice with all the toppings.  Cheese, croutons and dried fruits can add unnecessary calories. Find a low-calorie dressing you love and ask for it on the side.

Look for the best possible option.  Some restaurants aren’t ideal.  Do the best you can with the environment you are in. 

Enjoy your time with friends and family.

Infographic source: Precision Nutrition

Comment 1

  1. June 29, 2018

    Thanks for sharing. I did a post similar to this about eating out and keeping your nutrition on track. Check it out if you are interested:
    Also, I really liked that you posted about ways to respond to what people say when you don’t want to try food or trying to maintain your health. It’s annoying and honestly people just need to worry about theirselves. Not what I’m doing. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: