One of the quickest ways to inadvertently derail your healthy weight loss progress is to undermine your efforts by loading up on unhealthy, large-portioned restaurant foods. Usually this happens when your schedule interferes with your regular weight loss nutrition regimen, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of grabbing something quick to eat during lunch, at the end of a long work day, or while traveling.
Those of you who have spent time at weight loss resorts might have already learned to recognize your unhealthy restaurant habits, but with a little bit of organization and foresight, anyone can curb the desire to binge on restaurant meals or fast food during day-to-day life.
Here are some tips that you can implement right away to avoid the restaurant temptation.
- Bring your lunch to work. Create a weekly meal plan so you can shop for ingredients on the weekend. Prepare your lunch the night before so you’re not tempted to skip your sack lunch as you rush out the door in the morning.
- Create a cash budget for eating out. Just because you’re trying to lose weight doesn’t mean you can’t eat out, it just means that you need to be a little more thoughtful about it. Set aside a fixed amount of cash in an envelope for your monthly restaurant allowance. When the envelope is empty, it’s your signal to revert to home-cooked meals for the rest of the month.
- Get excited about new recipes. Many restaurant-style foods are easy to replicate at home. Research new recipes and consult the vast number of cooking “how-to” videos on the internet to learn restaurant-style preparation techniques, while you substitute healthy ingredients.
- Invest in a slow-cooker. If you’re strapped for time, a slow-cooker can aid your healthy weight loss goals by making it easier and faster to prepare healthy meals at home, so you’re not tempted to save time later at a restaurant. Set your slow cooker to make your food while you’re away at work so when you get home a hot dinner is waiting for you.
- Trade a sit-down restaurant for a walk around the block. If you’re eating out during your lunch break, you might just need a change of scenery or the opportunity to get out of the office. After you’ve eaten your homemade lunch, break out those athletic shoes and spend the remainder of your lunch period taking a brisk outdoor walk.
- Properly prepare your leftovers. Preserve the remainders from your favorite home-cooked meals for future lunches by using the proper storage techniques. Invest in high-quality air-tight containers that allow you to see what you have in the refrigerator and freezer at a glance. (Hint: slow-cooker meals are often perfect for freezing.)
- Know your habits and don’t be afraid to change them. The old saying, “Out of sight, out of mind” is a powerful phrase when trying to achieve your weight loss goals. If you know that you tend to salivate when driving by your favorite burger joint on the drive home from work, mix up your route so you head directly home without stopping.
- Don’t cave to peer pressure. Just because you’re invited out to a working lunch with colleagues doesn’t mean you have to accept. If you’re dedicated to weight loss, skip the working lunches and schedule a mid-afternoon meeting in a conference room instead.
- Put a time limit on it. “Never eating at a restaurant again” is a bleak way to live life and makes it easier to abandon your healthy weight loss plan entirely. Instead, start with a “no-restaurant” time limit of two weeks. Then allow yourself a healthy dinner out with friends, followed by another two week policy, etc. Breaking up your healthy lifestyle into more manageable parts makes it more likely that you’ll stick to your plan.
Eliminating restaurant meals is a sure-fire way to cut major calorie consumption and keep you on track to achieve your weight loss objectives. It requires preparation, planning, and adhering to your strategy. But if you keep your goals top of mind, you’ll soon find yourself saving that restaurant reservation for another day.