The best designed athletic program can be ripped to shreds with a poor nutritional program. Dining out is a huge problem for many athletes. Some athletes dine out to frequently or occasionally have a massive meal that could be several thousand calories.
The good news is that you don’t have to avoid restaurants completely. It is generally good to limiting your visits, but visiting occasionally is a great way to socialize and treat yourself. You should just be smart about it and follow some basic guidelines.
You don’t have to follow these tips every time you dine out. But the more frequently you go to restaurants, the more you should aim to follow these. If you just dine out once a month or so, it’s not really a big deal. Enjoy the food you like with your friends and family. If you go more frequently, you don’t want to hurt all the progress you make in the weight room and at your sport by splurging on poor nutrition frequently.
- Start with water – Do you really need a soda? Even if you are looking to recover after a hard workout, soda isn’t really the best choice for hydration and recovery. Stick with water. You’ll stay hydrated, have more room for good food, and you won’t have unnecessary sugars.
- Avoid appetizers – How many healthy and nutritious options do you see for appetizers on most menus? These are often the least healthy food choices you can find at a restaurant. Nachos, fried foods, and other items are stuffed with empty calories without much benefit.
- Consider a salad – Salads are a great way to start a meal. They’ll help to fill you up and provide you with some helpful micronutrients. Obviously, you don’t want to go to crazy with the dressing, but any reasonable dressing on a salad will be a better option than most appetizers.
- Base your meal on needs – You should base what you eat based at least partially on your training for that day and the following day. Did you have a particularly challenging squat workout? Do you have a key game coming up? These are times when eating more food and some extra carbs may be beneficial. If you are going through an easier part of training, you probably don’t need as much.
- Get picky with the main course – Sometimes eating your favorite meal at your favorite restaurant is ok. But most of the time, you should be smart with what you choose for an entree. It’s not a bad idea to fill most of your plate with a non-fried protein choice and veggies. Try not to overdo starches unless you are trying to recover from your training.
- Do you really need dessert? – If you have to have a dessert, see if there are any healthy options or if you even need one at all. Again, occasionally indulging in your favorite dessert isn’t the worst thing. You just don’t need to do it every time you dine out.
- Save some for later – Restaurant food portions continue to increase in size. Just because they serve it all to you doesn’t mean you have to eat it all immediately. Get a to-go box and make it a snack or second meal for the next day if the meal is too large. Smaller athletes may want to get a to-go box at the start of the meal, so they aren’t tempted to overeat.