Navigating Restaurant Menus and Alcohol

Not sure if it’s because it is that time of the year in Arizona (the few months that are the entire reason most people live here) or if it is just coincidence, but I have been getting a lot of questions about how to track alcohol and how to track while eating out.  I figured it is about time for a blog post regarding two hot topics in flexible dieting.

“Hi Karey, you said I could have whatever I want to have when I flexible diet, but it’s hard to fit some of the things I like to eat at restaurants in my macros.”

“Hey Karey, you said I could have alcohol, but I don’t understand how to log a drink.” (I go over this when a client begins with me but, as with learning anything new, we all can use a few reminders from time to time)

“Karey, I barely went over my totals for the day- does it matter?”

Flexible dieting is amazing; I could go on and on and on about it.  It honestly changed my life.  I used to eat about eight foods for TWO YEARS.  TWO! I would go 4- 5 months without eating anything I wanted to eat.  Oatmeal started to taste weird.  My taste buds died (ok, I’m exaggerating), and the second I had a bite of anything off my eight food list I swear it went right to my brain causing me to have an out of body experience and down an entire bag of cookies.  Or I would cave and have one bite of something, decide the day ruined, and eat everything in site promising I would “start again tomorrow.”  Flexible dieting retrained me to practice moderation.  That one bite of something “off my plan” did not equate to failure.  It eradicated my “good food” and “bad food” lists.  I disassociated guilt with eating “bad foods.”  And honestly, I was/ am just happier.

It is hard to get back into a moderation mindset when you have started to struggle with it.  It also makes sense why the eight magical foods existed.  They are filling carbohydrates- high volume and nutrient dense- and they are low in sugar.  White fish and chicken are lean- high protein, trace carbohydrate or fat.  Green vegetables are full of fiber.  These characteristics make sticking to a low-calorie diet much easier because you aren’t as hungry and you do not have as many blood sugar drops and spikes.  When you replace some of these high-quality foods with low-quality foods, you may find you are hungrier than normal.  Your meals may also be very, very tiny.  Think giant bowl of oatmeal (27 grams carbs for 1/2 cup) vs. one red velvet pop tart (36 grams carbs).

So there is a price to pay for the trade and lots of people just can’t make it through the day in a deficit utilizing many low-volume, high-calorie foods without being miserable because they are hungry.  I know I am one of those people.  I can have something here and there to keep cravings at bay or use a few low calorie treats to satisfy my sweet tooth, but primarily I have to rely on nutrient dense foods.  Good news is- there are way more than 8 of those foods! So flexible dieting is NOT subbing all high-quality foods for low-quality foods (you can sometimes), but it is more subbing high-quality foods for other high-quality foods.  Being able to wander through the grocery store and try different things.  Having the freedom to try new recipes.  I used to see recipes all the time and think- dairy- nope that’s out.  White rice- no way! White potato- you have to be joking! Cereal? NEVER.  You see the point.  I was cutting out entire food groups at times.

Back to ordering at in and out burger- when you are in a deficit as I mentioned, you will have a harder time fitting large meals into your macros especially if you are a relatively small female.  Keep that in mind when men who flexibly diet post their wide array of foods for the day- Lucky Charms, pizza, ice cream, pop tarts- and don’t mention that they have way more macros based on their size.  Seeing said posts could give people false expectations of flexible dieting.  For most of us, some things just won’t fit.

Tips to allow for more flexibility when on a calorie deficit:

What you can do, is have fewer meals per day.

The six meal rule needs to die.  By the end of my prep, each meal was very low calorie, never giving me that full feeling.  If I had moved my meals to 4 meals, I would have had a better chance of feeling satisfied and not eating until I was sick to my stomach post show.  My body missed feeling full.  That little ache in my stomach day in and day out finally made me snap.

You also can plan ahead for the trip out.

I know, I know, sometimes you may not know you are going somewhere to eat.  I get it.  But there is some night that you do know.  In my case, I try to leave some space somewhere over the weekend to eat out.  I know Friday or Saturday night or Sunday day we are most likely to enjoy a meal away from home.  I’m sure if you consider this, you will find a pattern in your schedule.  If not, you could try to create one by asking your friends or significant other if they want to grab dinner on (fill in the blank) day and time.  Then you do know because you created the event.  There is always a way around any obstacle.

Sometimes things we like to eat will never fit.

If you have been consistent for some time, and you are just killing it, then you can have an untracked meal now and then and still reach your goals without much delay.  What won’t work is doing that on a regular basis.  I’ll hear people say they went on vacation and had to try this from that restaurant, and this from there, and that from this place… so then yes, your progress will stall if not back track.  Flexible dieting makes being in a deficit EASIER, not easy.  I think I have said that a million times.  And unfortunately, way LESS easy for small females.  (periods, child birth and now this??!)


Do I have to give up drinking altogether to reach my goal?

Well, it sure as hell would help but I would never ask you to do that if passing on your favorite glass of wine would make you miserable.  No one should be miserable.

You have to understand that it will dive into your calorie allotment for the day.  You have a few options when tracking alcohol.  You can use your daily carbohydrates, your daily fat grams, or a little of both to count an adult beverage.

Example: one 5 oz glass of red wine is 125 calories.  If I have more carbs to spare than grams of fat, I can divide 125 by 4 (number of calories in one gram of carbohydrate) and get about 31 grams carbs.  I can custom create this entry in My Fitness Pal and add it to my day.  If I have more fat grams, I can take 125 and divide by 9 (number of calories in one gram of fat) and get about 14 grams of fat.  I create my custom entry for red wine and enter 14 grams of fat then add that to my day.  You might have to get creative and use both carbs and fats.  In that case, I would look at what you have left for the day (or what you are willing to part with) and multiply the grams of carbs by 4 and grams of fat by 9, add them together, and see how many calories you have to choose a drink.  Always hydrate well when drinking alcohol and I would not recommend using all of your carbs and fats in a day to drink and eating four meals of egg whites.

So now we have had our In and Out Burger with a glass of wine, and we are happy as can be.  Then we realize our math was incorrect and went over by a little.  (little= 10 grams not 100 grams).  Does it matter? Occasionally, no.  Don’t sweat it.  But if you are always over and we are already on the very edge of what you can consume to be in a deficit, and you are only going to lose 0.5 lbs of body fat if you stay below this range and you have gone over frequently, you could erase the deficit.  Which is not something to freak out about, just try again.  Shake off the bad days and hop back to it.  The more you are stress-free regarding the process, the more fun it will be and the more fun it is, the more likely you are to stick with it.

From time to time I will hear how tracking is “stressing” a client.  I have felt that way too.  But I have been tracking for a lo time.  If you are new to this and you are overwhelmed, start slowly.  Plug in one day of food you would like to eat, and eat the same thing for a few days.  Then change things.  Constantly trying to get fancy on My Fitness Pal can be time-consuming and aggravating to beginners.  Also keep in mind that even if you decide not to track to reach your goals, one way or another you are going to have to keep a running tally of what you are consuming or at the bare minimum the number of calories you are eating per day to be able to lose weight.  Very rarely someone stumbles upon a shredded physique.  The initial time spent learning the foods can be overwhelming at first, but it is a life skill that you will be able to take with you for the rest of your life.  That is priceless.

So we hit the high points.  You can eat out, enjoy wine, and with consistency still achieve your goals.  There is a give and take.  But it is a much more fair trade in my opinion to the “dieting” of old.  For Easter today, I had a pancake and a chocolate bunny, but they still fit in my totals. No need to bring a Tupperware container of chicken and vegetables.

So Cheers! If you want to talk specifically about how to enjoy your favorite foods while losing body fat just let me know and I’m happy to help!