What to eat when heading out to a restaurant!
Words: Zoe Wilson, APD Photos: Tim Bardsley-Smith, Mike Blewitt
For most of us, long gone are the days of carefully planning a weeks’ worth of meals, then shopping, cooking and eating them at the dinner table over a nice long conversation. With less time and more convenient options easily available at the push of a button, its easy to see why. In fact, 58 per cent of us are ordering in takeaway on weeknights according to the Australian Beef Survey 2018. And we’re not even waiting at the Takeaway shop for our food anymore. According to research by Cowan, almost half of people surveyed use a food delivery service like Uber Eats or Deliveroo more than once a month, some almost every day.
Whilst eating out or ordering in is great for saving time and relieving the pressure of having to plan meals, it’s not always great for your health or performance. Restaurant food tends to be higher in saturated fat, salt and sugar and bigger in portions. Over the long term, this can mean weight gain, an increased risk of chronic diseases, and not the best performance on the bike. This doesn’t mean you have to stop eating restaurant food altogether but being mindful of your order will help to maximise your performance and your health. After all, eating well fuels your body properly, reduces extra kilos to be carted up those hills and therefore gets the best out of your body on the trails.
Basic Rules for Eating Out
If you’re going to eat out or order in, there are a few basic things to keep in mind that will help you maximise your performance.
- Think about balance. Ideally you want to make your meals about ¼ carbohydrate, ½ protein and half vegetables. If you’re training heavily or racing long, up the carbohydrates to about ½ your plate for the extra energy. In this instance, choose meals that are based on carbohydrates like pasta, rice or bread.
- Maximise the sides. If the balance isn’t quite right, order a side to help. Most takeaway options will be light on the veggies, so order side serves of vegetables or salad if they don’t come with the meal. Or, if you need extra energy as you’re pre-fuelling for a big race, order sides of baked potato, rice or bread to up the carbohydrate portion of a meat, chicken or fish-based meal.
- Avoid the cream and oil. Opt for meals that are plainer and lower in fat to help with digestion and avoid any gut trouble the next day. Go for tomato-based sauces (rather than creamy), and meals with only small amounts of cheese, butter or oil. Ask for black pepper, tomato sauce, salsa or lemon and balsamic rather than buttery sauces and creamy dressings. It’s always a good idea to ask for your dressing on the side so you can control how much goes on.
- Keep overall goals in mind. Desserts are not compulsory (I know, I know…). If you’re watching your weight, it’s best not to order them at all, or to go for something you have at home like some fruit or a few pieces of chocolate. If you do need more fuel to meet your training requirements, go for carbohydrate rich desserts like rice or bread and butter pudding, sorbet, fruit salad or fruit crumble and custard, but again – it’s better to go with a homemade version if you can.
- Don't forget your hydration! Always have a full water glass at the table to help with your hydration. If you know you need a bit more carbohydrate to top up your fuel stores, fruit juice or even soft drink can be a good option. Being hydrated also helps to regulate appetite, reduces the amount you eat and therefore excess weight gain.
- Think about HOW you eat. More than half of those ordering takeaway food on weeknights are eating their meals in front of the TV which isn’t great. When you eat in front of the TV you are distracted, so often eat faster and eat more than you need. Instead, even if you do order food in, eat it at the table and eat it slowly – enjoy it! Ideally its best to take 20-30 minutes to eat your meal. If you do, you’re better able to tell when you’ve had enough and less likely to end the meal with that horrible heavy and overfull feeling…
- Thai or Vietnamese stir-fries with steamed rice or noodles. Add a side of green veg so you get enough.
- Sushi or sashimi with a seaweed salad (avoid the creamy sauces but go for it with the wasabi!)
- Sandwiches or hamburgers with grilled meat or fish, lots of salad and light on the sauces and creamy dressings.
- A vegetable-based soup or salad with some lean protein and a bread roll.
- Poke bowl with salmon or tuna, wholegrains and lots of vegies.
- A baked potato with a healthy topping like tuna, baked beans, salsa or Bolognese sauce.
- Pasta with tomato-based pasta sauces such as Napolitana, marinara and Bolognese, rather than cream-based sauces. Add a salad to up the veg.
- Kebabs or souvlaki can also be a decent takeaway choice, just choose the plainer options and avoid lashings of creamy dressings.