Eating out with co-workers can often be quite the treat, unless of course you’re on a diet.
With temptation and pressure surrounding you, eating out with friends can prove to be difficult and even devastating to a well-thought-out dieting approach.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to ensure you’re staying on track, while still enjoying time and food with friends and co-workers.
In this article, I’ll breakdown five of my top tips for being able to enjoy eating out with friends and co-workers while sticking to your diet.
Check Out The Menu Beforehand
Most have been in the situation of needing to go out with co-workers at some point during their career. This can prove to be exceptionally difficult and uncomfortable, especially if you’re on a diet and your co-workers are not.
As with most of my recommendations, you want to ensure that you have a plan – in this case, before you even set foot in a restaurant.
By first checking out the menu and finding the healthier options, you can make your decisions beforehand, to help avoid temptation and uncertainty when choosing from the menu.
While some restaurants have specific “weight conscious” food choices, many do not. In this situation, it’s better to have scoped out the menu beforehand for the healthiest options, rather than being put on the spot when needing to order.
Lastly, by checking it ahead of time, you may even find that there are no options available within your nutritional guidelines. In this case, you can eat before getting to the restaurant rather than being stuck with junk or the decision to skip eating altogether.
By having a plan, you can avoid potentially having to eat foods that you don’t desire or that are not in line with your fitness goals. Check the menu in advance to make informed, smart decisions in line with your fitness goals.
Skip The Appetizer & Opt For A Salad
Outings with co-workers are often accompanied by an abundance of food being ordered, especially appetizers.
If you’re hoping to be health conscious while out with friends, a great measure to take is to avoid appetizers altogether or opt for a small salad with a light dressing.
Unfortunately, when out with friends, appetizers that are ordered are often of the fried varieties, which don’t necessarily provide great nutritional benefit when dieting. If you aren’t careful, an appetizer could easily add an extra 250-500 calories on top of your entrée.
Rather than tagging along, I suggest opting out or consuming a salad with light dressing. Doing so will have a twofold effect.
First of all, you’ll be avoiding fried, calorie dense foods. Second, by having a salad, you’ll ensure that you’re getting a healthy dose of fiber rich vegetables, which, apart from helping with digestion, can significantly reduce the amount of calories you consume by reducing your appetite.
Rather than jumping in with friends for appetizers, opt for a salad instead to remain health conscious, even when eating out with friends.
Have A Protein Shake Beforehand
Having a protein shake before going out with co-workers for food is the easiest and one of the most effective methods for moderating the amount of food you will be eating at the restaurant.
Protein has been shown time and again to actually have a satiating or appetite suppressant effect. Due to the structure of proteins, digestion is slowed, which means you stay fuller for longer (1, 2, 3).
Additionally, research has shown that when subjects consume as little as 20 grams of protein in between meals, these subjects consume significantly fewer calories than those who do not (4).
A great technique is to have at least 2 to 3 protein shakes (or equivalent amount of powder) available with you at your work for situations just as this. Not to mention, a protein shake would be a great option for a mid-afternoon snack, even if you weren’t going out to eat with co-workers or friends.
I suggest having a protein shake of at least 20 grams of high quality protein, along with a full glass of water around 30 minutes prior to getting food with co-workers. Doing so will allow you to feel full and satisfied, reducing the possibility of over indulging while at the restaurant.
Opt For A Protein And Vegetable Dish
One of the benefits of searching the menu beforehand is that you can figure out the best combination of entrée and side dishes possible for your goals.
While everyone is off ordering hamburgers and French fries, you can search for healthier options such as lean protein and vegetables. Sure, it’s acceptable to have a burger and fries once in a while, but you’ll want to limit this indulgence if you’re really serious.
While opting for lean protein and vegetables is likely self-explanatory, doing so will allow you to eat enough protein and fiber, which will help you feel fuller for longer and thus, eat less food. Not to mention, healthier options at restaurants still often taste quite good, so you’re unlikely to feel as though you missed out (3, 5, 6).
Lastly, be conscious of the fact that even healthy options can be junk in disguise when smothered with high fat and sugar sauces. In this situation, I suggest asking for sauce on the side so that you can apply it at your own discretion, rather than accidentally consuming 500 additional calories from sauce.
When at restaurants with co-workers or even alone, I suggest opting for lean protein and vegetable options, with sauces on the side to still enjoy restaurant foods, while doing so at your own discretion.
Structure Your Meals
Lastly, continuing with the previous suggestion, try structuring your meals by consuming protein and vegetables first and only then consuming any less healthy options.
A personal favorite example is as follows: if I know I’m going to have pizza with friends, I often first consume cottage cheese or Greek yogurt with a salad beforehand.
That way I know I’m getting ample protein and fiber first, and then enjoying my pizza. Not to mention, doing so will reduce my pizza consumption from 5 or more pieces to around 2 to 3.
By using this structure you still get to consume foods you want to enjoy, but in moderation, without the risk of ruining your diet plan.
Before having enjoyable, less-healthy options, first consume protein and vegetables and then indulge. Doing so will allow for greater control over your intake.
5 Tips For Eating Out With Co-Workers While Dieting
While eating out with friends is often enjoyable, doing so while on a diet can make you feel uncomfortable and even guilty if it leads to deviating from your plan.
Using these tips will allow you to still enjoy food with friends while remaining dedicated to your diet. Additionally, these tips can be used immediately with little to no change in your life.
- Halton, T. L., & Hu, F. B. (2004). The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 23(5), 373-385.
- Mojtahedi, M. C., Thorpe, M. P., Karampinos, D. C., Johnson, C. L., Layman, D. K., Georgiadis, J. G., & Evans, E. M. (2011). The effects of a higher protein intake during energy restriction on changes in body composition and physical function in older women. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, glr120.
- Lorenzen, J., Frederiksen, R., Hoppe, C., Hvid, R., & Astrup, A. (2012). The effect of milk proteins on appetite regulation and diet-induced thermogenesis. European journal of clinical nutrition, 66(5), 622-627.
- MacKenzie-Shalders, K. L., Byrne, N. M., Slater, G. J., & King, N. A. (2015). The effect of a whey protein supplement dose on satiety and food intake in resistance training athletes. Appetite, 92, 178-184.
- Cho, S. S., Case, I. L., & Nishi, S. (2009). Fiber and Satiety. Weight Control and Slimming Ingredients in Food Technology, 227.
- Lefranc-Millot, C., Macioce, V., Guérin-Deremaux, L., Lee, A. W., & Cho, S. S. (2012). Fiber and Satiety. Dietary Fiber and Health, 83.