So over the years I have been that person, you know the one I am talking about, that starts a New Year or New Month with a weightloss goal, and in turn they hibernate. They say no to plans, they stay at home with the comfort of their own groceries and control. Then 2 weeks in they feel sad, isolated, and miserable. They miss socializing, they miss going to events, and are exhausted by weighing, prepping, shopping and thinking about food....all the time.
After years of trial, error, hibernation, a bikini competition, prepping for a wedding, and well forever fearful of gaining back the weight I lost over 12 years ago, I have learned a few things! Over a wonderful dinner out this week, a group of my closest friends listened as I ordered a modified meal from the menu and said "you should share this on your blog!" so here I am, pretending to be an expert on eating out and staying "thin" whatever the hell that means. My advice is to take some of this advice, create a framework that works for your lifestyle and if you take even ONE tip from this long winded blog than I am successful!
Eating out in YXE (and everywhere) while trying to fit into your pants
Let's face it, most people eat out fairly regularly these days, with the growing number of amazing restaurants here in Saskatoon paired with the growing number of commitments we take on, eating out is almost inevitable, and in fact it is really enjoyable! #hellohappyhour
Here is the framework I use when eating out, which in my case is usually about twice a week:
1. Almost every chain is very accommodating to modifications. Be polite, and remember to be clear with requests. Most chain restaurants take your #highmaintenance order with ease and are more than accustomed to giving the chef the exact instructions you request. If I am looking to be extra careful on my order than more often than not I will try and choose one of the chains I suggest below.
2. Smaller local places are also fairly accommodating but I like to keep my changes minimal. The menu's are curated by a passionate chef who has created each dish to be the perfect combination of taste and flavour, so being extra and changing a dish in its entirety is not your best look #dontbeanasshole. Don't let this stop you from going in fear of getting shunned, its surprising how wonderful most places are now about asking for things like: less rice more vegetables, easy oil, and a protein substitution. Just be mindful of the menu beforehand and find something that you will need to make very few modifications to. Ie: Don't order their curry dish and ask for no sauce.....I mean why why why would be THAT person? Takeaway - be prepared, look ahead, and be respectful of the chef.
3. Make the decision! I am the queen of decisiveness, most think its because I am controlling, which ok ok I am, but its also because people like a decision, any decision! If you are wanting to socialize but keep your calorie budget in check then be the first to suggest a few places that are modification friendly! I almost always try and choose and this ensures I am set up for success withouthaving to "stay in and avoid".
4. Keep eating out as a treat, I try to limit myself to twice per week maximum, this allows for enjoyment and for it to feel like a nice break from prepping meals. This also allows for some indulgence versus overthinking every ounce you put in your mouth while out. If you go over your daily caloric intake by a few hundred calories #noonewilldie in fact you may get a little energy boost in your workout the next day! 80/20.
Ok now for some real life examples!
Chains: Cactus Club, Earls, and Scarlet
Hunter Chicken, substitute the sides for double house vegetables hold the butter, sauce on the side. This is a really tasty dish and you do not feel like you are missing out. The mushroom sauce is extra flavourful and by asking for it on the side you control the amount you use. The house veggies are always really good options like broccolini, green beens or squash and the sauce added make them a yummy side. The chicken is a large portion and comes grilled with the skin on which adds a great amount of flavour and healthy fats! Its filling, delicious and easy to order!
The Feenie Burger: ask for no mayo and choose either the bacon OR the cheddar, side house veggies no butter! When it arrives option to eat it with a fork and knife and take the top of the bun off, keep the bottom so its filling and still has the "burger" feel. The extra fat in the beef, and cheddar or bacon make it indulgent and tasty. By subtracting the mayo, removing half the bun, and getting it with house veg makes it a lot more moderate when it comes to calories, and the veggies add some fibre and nutrients to the meal.
The Modern Bowl: substitute the jasmine rice for extra veggies! This is a colorful and flavorful new addition to their menu, add avocado for some healthy fats and to keep you full! *Note: keep the rice and this is still a moderate healthy option, just be mindful of your carbohydrate/sugar intake for the rest of the day!
Cajun Chicken (ax the sides it comes with on the menu and ask for it with steamed rice, house veggies, easy oil, light or no butter. Similar to the Cactus dish this is a generous piece of cajun blackened chicken breast with the skin on which makes it extra filling and tasty! Earls always has a feature creative house vegetable option (ie: this month is winter squash with a pesto sauce) and their steamed rice is a nice filling way to add some volume to your meal. Option 2: get double vegetables if you are watching extra carbohydrates for that day!
Steak Sandwich with house greens or caesar (dressing on the side), option the bread. For the salad just dip your fork into the dressing before each bite and you will subtract more than half the dressing and calories without sacrificing taste! Also squeeze lemon on it and you won't need as much dressing.
Salt & Pepper Wings and Salad, Earls wings are not battered so this is a good (high fat) option if you want something indulgent! They are extra flavourful and add a side salad (dressing on the side) for some extra volume. You can enjoy some treats with friends without blowing your calorie budget for the whole day. Personally I like UN-breaded wings better as the breading gets lost when they deep fry!
Scarlet Restaurant in the Sheraton, this is mainly a breakfast/brunch suggestion as they have one of the best breakfast / brunches in Saskatoon. They are a hotel chain so they are extremely accommodating to modifications and special guest requests. My go-to, the egg-white omelette with mushroom and spinach with no cheese. For sides add their delicious chicken sausage (seriously so good and not greasy at all!) I get it on the side as I find it gets lost when mixed into the omelette. It's your journey so get it in the omelette (or back bacon) if you choose. I subtract the potatoes/toast/fruit and get 1 single whole wheat pancake no butter/icing sugar for my side, it is delicious and filling and ONE pancake is all you need to feel like you are not "missing out". I mean...who doesn't like pancakes! Also the whole wheat is a better for you, lower fat version of the buttermilk variant. Tip: order the Nonfat cafe misto with 1 pump sugar free vanilla syrup for a nice black coffee alternative ringing in at only 70 calories and 10g of carbs!
Local: Congress, Una, Sticks & Stones
Congress, this is a local version of Cactus and Earls, just better! What I mean by this is you can generally choose a salad, burger, or main and make some small modifications to make it fit your lifestyle!
House salad with side dressing add blackened chicken and (or) prawns. Their house salad is hands down my favourite in the city and has the perfect combo of fresh vegetables, sea salt, and the tangy dill vinaigrette is drool worthy. Adding the protein keeps you full while getting the dressing on the side allows you to use only half which is really all you need! For extra protein and fat add an egg, and use less dressing.
Ace Burger with no mayo, no cheese. The burger itself is flavourful enough without the added fats and the bacon makes it extra tasty! Order it with a side of their house salad noted above and its a great option that won't blow your day budget. Most burger/fry combo's weigh in at a whopping 1,000 calories or more and by making a few small substitutions you get the flavour, the experience, and the taste without the added 500+ calories. I mean, who wouldn't pick a glass of vino over 1 slice of cheddar really??
1/2 roasted chicken with all vegetables, no mash or bacon creamed spinach. Indulgent, flavourful and filling this is a great option for a large appetite with minimal modifications!
This is my favourite place to indulge because you can share! You get to socialize, have some treat food and keep your calories somewhat in check. This is not somewhere I would regularly suggest as I don't believe in modifying pizza :). Especially their amazing pies.
Option 1: My suggestion is go with a friend or a few get one pizza (they are a good size) have two slices and share their epic kale salad. The atmosphere is great and allows for the focus to be less on the food and more on the experience, enjoy a glass of wine, and have a slice of pizza or two. Take your time, enjoy the extra calories but be mindful of the amount you are having. You will leave feeling satisfied without feeling sick.
Option 2: Order their house "wings" and a small kale salad. These wings are more like boneless chicken thighs and are not breaded. This is higher in fat but low in carbs and not low in taste. Its indulgent and filling without the added sugar that most wings / caesars offer.
This is a bit more tricky as this place is a unique locally owned fusion restaurant that has complex asian dishes which can be overwhelming for someone who is on a "calorie budget". But it can be done, and add in some manners, and a smile and they are willing to help in any way they can.
Bibimbap: this is an easy one, ask for extra veggies and half the rice and they are MORE than happy to accommodate. Your mouth will explode with flavour and you won't miss the added carbs!
Assorted Sashimi, if you are a fish fan this is the BEST option for flavour and minimal calories. This is the variant of sushi that is not laden with rice but is still full of taste.
Going with a group who loves to share? Try a few indulgent dishes and share! Get 1 roll and have one or two pieces each, get one order of their famous ramen and share it (its pretty large), and get an appetizer like their amazing fried chicken and each have one piece. Similar to Una this is a great place for sharing with friends, and the atmosphere is top notch. Added note: their signature cocktails are unmatched and the caliber allows for just one really good drink vs a bunch of mediocre ones. My mantra in life really, have one great thing vs many OK things.
While I have other local favourites and ways to modify, I hope this snapshot gives you some inspiration, makes eating out seem more accessible while maintaining your weight-loss goals, and well gives some new fresh ideas.
*I am still thinking of putting together an e-book with macro friendly recipes and a more in depth guide to structuring your days for success, email me if you would enjoy this!
Yours truly in all things New New,