Learning to cook can be one of the single most positive changes you can make on your weight loss journey. But I would argue there are times when you are better off going out.
When To Stay In and Cook
In a recent article I wrote about a single restaurant swap can save you over 1200 calories.
I discussed how a single meal can easily be between 1500-2000 calories at a restaurant even when you think your making a “good choice” by ordering something like a Turkey Wrap. While I do feel you must learn how to eat out to be successful, learning how to cook might be even more beneficial.
The Problem With Restaurants
They Prepare For Taste
Chefs don’t care about calories. They want to infuse as much flavor as they can into your dish and one of those ways is by adding things like fat. Have you ever watched Gordon Ramsey prepare a steak? How much butter do you think he uses?
They Aren’t Measuring Everything
Chef’s aren’t going to measure out the oil they are using. They just know that more will make it taste richer. I think this point is slightly different between a higher end restaurant and a fast food chain. Whereas somewhere like Subway or McDonald’s has a lot of food pre-portioned but a restaurant that is making things fresh will likely be aiming for taste.
Their Nutrition Information Is Wrong
The nutrition information listed on the website is at best, an estimation. As noted in the previous point they don’t measure everything so there is no way to be sure the nutrition is correct. The nutrition might be based on X portion but the Chef used Y with your dish. I am still a firm believer that being aware of the calories, even if they are off by 10-20% is better than being naive about it. The restaurants posted (estimated) nutrition is still likely better than your “guess” because you might not be aware of how much of certain things like oil are used on dishes you wouldn’t assume. I have sat in at some Chef’s Tables where you watch them prepare the dish. Very tasty, but it opens your eyes.
Become Your Own Chef
Put Yourself In Control
You do care about health and subsequently calories. Once you put yourself in control and learn to cook you will realize how little you may actually need of certain ingredients and how easy certain substitutions are to make. Why use 3 Tbsp of oil when 1 will suffice? Why use mayo when greek yogurt can provide the same flavor and texture with fewer calories?
Healthy Food Should Taste Good
Eating a healthy and calorie-wise meal does not mean it is plain and tasteless. Your mind immediately thinks plain chicken, plain rice (or no rice) and plain steamed vegetables. It is very easy to spice up your food and make it taste gourmet when you are in control. I tell everyone I work with that you should be eating tasty food because if you don’t enjoy your food you will not adhere for long. If your not sure or confident in making tasty food then pick up a cookbook like Yum and Yummer which has tonnes of good recipes, many of which are calorie-wise and they also list the calories for the ingredients listed.
You Control The Portion Size
When you become the Chef you control the portions. Not only the amount of each ingredient in the dish but the amount you serve yourself. You can use the portion size guidelines and follow our War Plan Template. When eating out at a restaurant we often feel obligated to finish what is on our plate. But if you put yourself in control and your in the comfort of your own home you now control the size of the portions on the plate and you can even control the size of the plate used which is another fantastic tactic you can use.
Prepare Your Version Of Favorite Dishes
Give yourself the ability to prepare your favorite meals at a fraction of the calories. Craving a burger? Awesome. Let’s pick up some Extra Lean Ground Beef or Turkey and make some homemade burgers!
I have nothing against eating leftovers and neither should you. Why prepare twice if you can do it once? One of the most common barriers we hear is convenience. You are in control of the portions remember? Make more. Craving those burgers? Make enough to last more than one meal. This is an easy and indirect way to food prep.
Calories Become More Accurate
If you so desire, you are able to calculate the calories within the meals you prepare more accurately. Don’t feel obligated too as you do not need to track calories and weigh every morsel of food to reach your weight loss goals. But if you wish too this becomes far easier when you’re in control.
Eating out is costly and can add up quickly. Preparing your own food is far more cost effective.
Learning to cook can be one of the single most positive changes you can make on your weight loss journey.
But wait… I said there are certain times when you shouldn’t prepare it yourself? Correct. I think you should become a Chef, but you might want to leave the baking to someone else.
When To Go Out
When it comes to baking it may be a better option to go out then prepare it yourself.
Let’s say you’re craving cookies so you whip up a batch of your Grandma’s Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies! Shit… You just needed 1 or 2 cookies to satisfy your craving. But now you’re staring at a counter filled with 24 freshly baked cookies. We are fully aware that Grandma’s Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies are the kryptonite to our willpower.
No need to cite any fancy research. We know that we have a harder time controlling our portions with sugar. By going out for a cookie we eliminate this risk or at least make the chance of over doing it harder. If you’re craving a cookie and you are at the mall and you go to Cookies By George and get a Chocolate Chip Cookie and then continue your shopping. We remove the extra 22-23 cookies you didn’t need and we remove the temptation.
While main course leftovers can be a fantastic way to keep your eating on track leftover baked goods while tasty increase our temptations. Using the previous example if we managed to only eat 1 or 2 of Grandma’s Famous Cookies but then we are staring at them on the counter or in the fridge for the rest of the day or week we are testing the limits of our willpower.
The exception here is that it is possible to make calorie-wise desserts. Maybe you can cut the calories of your favorite cheesecake from 750 calories per slice and make a protein cheesecake with substitutions for 250 calories per slice. This is great! Just remember just because it is 250 calories per slice, if you eat 4 it becomes 1000 calories. Calorie-wise desserts may save calories but they still provide the same temptations with leftovers and if they are not as satisfying taste-wise you may want to eat more.
“But I Love Baking”
I can relate. I absolutely love baking. Spread the love. Maybe you can bring your dish to someone’s house for a function. This way you can still bake, enjoy some and then not be left with the rest! Another idea is making something that you can freeze. If you were craving cookies and made 24 but only needed 1 you can put the remaining in the freezer. You still have the leftovers but it is more out of sight which can reduce that temptation.
At the end of the day we cannot eliminate eating out or eliminate eating home baked goodies from our lives. If we can create lifestyle changes that support our long term goals then the occasional time we are eating out or have a couple cookies will not amount to anything.
If you do find yourself in situations or you have a lifestyle where you are frequently eating out definitely check out my article on how Restaurant Swaps Are The Key To Sustainable Weight Loss.
If you are looking for help implementing these strategies click HERE to book a free strategy session.