Whenever you read articles on how to eat out and lose weight they give you certain pieces of advice. Clear soup to start, pasta in tomato sauce, skip the bread, order a salad with dressing on the side, ask the server how the food is prepared, swap the chips for side salad, ask them to leave off the butter or grill the chicken instead of frying it.
It’s all perfectly good advice, but that’s not always the way it works.
If you travel at all you’ll probably, at least once, have arrived late in an unfamiliar town and ended up stuffing your face in a hotel restaurant, or on room service, or at a McDonalds. If you travel regularly then you know that having the willpower to always order the pasta with tomato sauce is both boring and really very hard.
Plus, of course, we all know that blank face when asking someone in a chain restaurant to make substitution or prepare food in a different way. Sometimes it’s far easier to order the meal AND a side salad and hope you have the willpower to put the chips in the bin.
Many people work away from home at least occasionally, when eating out several days in a row is the only option, for breakfast, lunch AND dinner.
So while these are all good advice for eating out when you WANT to, for fun, here’s my advice for eating kind of healthily when travelling, short of time, or away.
- Investigate the Area
If you’re going to be travelling to an unfamiliar area then take advantage of services like Yell and Yelp! to check out what’s in the area in advance. If the answer is “nothing” then services like Just Eat can help you order takeaway food in unfamiliar areas. Plain rice and chicken and mushrooms from a local Chinese is a far better bet than most hotel food, plus if you decide to order that in advance you can’t be tempted by the hotel menu.
- Know Your Restaurants
The advantage of Globalisation is that almost every area has the same restaurants, and many of them publish nutrition information online. If you know 3 or 4 restaurants where you can eat a healthy meal that you enjoy then you just need to find the closest one to you and refrain from looking at the menu so the other options can’t tempt you.
- Be Realistic
Only you know if you’ll have the willpower to resist a burger and order a salad when you’re stood in McDonalds after a long day travelling. If you don’t think you can then make alternative plans. Stop in a supermarket on the way and buy a salad bowl and cooked chicken and prepare yourself a salad “in room”, or have a “next worst” option prepared. If you’re tired and can’t face the salad maybe a hot chicken wrap would be the next best option, instead of the 800 calorie burger. My “best” option in a Wetherspoons, for instance, is a Superfood Chicken Salad, but if I just can’t face it and want something more substantial then I know I can opt for the Noodles with Chicken instead.
- Know Your Portions
The worst part of HAVING to eat out is that the portion sizes are so out of skew with what you might make at home. A perfectly healthy pasta dish might be twice the size of any reasonable serving. Consider confusing the staff and ordering two starters. You’ll feel more satisfied, but the portions will be smaller. Consider sharing with a travelling companion if you have one as well.
- Be Prepared
If you travel a lot then there are certain things you might find you can take along to make life a lot easier. Pots of porridge that can be prepared with a kettle, sachets of cup a soups, individual salad dressing portions, sweeteners and pre packed bean salads from the health food shop that don’t need to be kept chilled are all ideal on the go meals. Sticking a plastic plate and a knife and fork in your suitcase makes ordering takeaways easier, though many hotels will happily provide you with cutlery and plates.
Should all your planning go awry and you find yourself arriving at 9pm, tired, hungry, and with no options other than one of those awful chain pubs with menus that announce *GUT BUSTER BURGER!!!* *CAN YOU HANDLE THE CHALLENGE!!* and you really don’t want one of their terrible wilted salads, then just remember. It’s only one meal. Eat what you want, eat until you feel full, have a glass of wine, hell, have the whole bottle, but tomorrow get back on with it instead of writing yourself off as a failure. It’s 4 nights a week of Gut Buster Burgers that make you gain weight, feel sluggish and give you a heart attack. Not one meal.