Robert Santana — Starting Strength Coach, Registered Dietitian, and Head Nutrition Coach for Barbell Logic Online Coaching — returns to the podcast to talk about the “restaurant trap” and how to avoid going off the rails next time you dine out.
Let’s face it, eating out is a big part of American culture. Restaurants serve as social hubs on the weekends and offer a bit of reprieve from the daily work grind. Even supposedly “healthy” restaurants are fraught with traps that can wreck your macros. With a little planning and some basic strategies, however, you can navigate any restaurant without letting it derail your nutrition.
Below are some highlights from our conversation with Robert.
Restaurants are a trap
- Let’s not beat around the bush. Restaurant food has higher levels of salt, fat, sugar compared to home cooked meals.
- These exaggerated flavors override our natural satiety signals, making it easy to overeat.
- Fat is hidden in unexpected places: butter, oils, creams, dressings all contain lots of fat.
- We tend to desire sweet flavors after savory/salty, and vice versa, leading to overeating. Meals are often structured accordingly: appetizer, bread/chips, main course, dessert.
Plan Your Menu Options
- Identify “safe” restaurant choices with reasonable menu options — that way when you’re tired and decide to eat out, you don’t have to think about what to order.
- Ask for steamed vegetables and sauces on the side.
- Double the vegetables on the side instead of ordering a starch. LPT: more vegetables makes you have a fuller plate, so your dietary choices seem less weird to your friend group who may not understand or support your diet.
- Example of a tough restaurant, Texas Roadhouse: 6oz filet, one roll with no extra butter, side salad dipping fork in dressing, steamed vegetables
Over-estimate Your Calories
- Use the 50% Rule: assume you are getting double the calories you need, so only eat 50% of the portions you order. Maybe even less for high fat, high carb foods like pasta and desserts.
- Dip the butter and dressings, don’t slather it on. Dip your fork in dressings, don’t pour the dressing on your salad.
- Simple ingredients — salmon, vegetables, rice — are easier to estimate than complex dishes.
Know Some Common Food References
- Fist = 3oz portion protein
- If it’s shiny, don’t eat the whole thing. Probably oily, i.e. high in fat.
Routine vs Special Occasion
- For most people, dining out should be a special occasion not an everyday event
- Don’t try to balance your macros at a restaurant — just follow the basic strategies and stick to your routines and good eating habits at home.
- If you know you are eating out, plan your meals accordingly. Eat less during the day in anticipation of the big work dinner, for instance.
Work on Your Food Prep Skills
- Trent’s 5min food bowl: rice, big handful of chopped cabbage, top with ground beef, and drizzle with a savory/spicy sauce like soy sauce, sriracha, or chili sauce.
- Santana’s slow cooked oatmeal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eR5jV1-ijik
You can follow Robert Santana and his excellent nutrition tips and diet hacks @the_robert_santana. He also has a new gym that just opened in the Phoenix area! He offers barbell training and nutrition coaching services: https://www.weightsandplates.com
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