I'm sure it comes as no surprise that every meal eaten out of your home can be a real diet disaster and throw the most mindful eaters off their health and wellness track.

The average individual has lunch out twice per week and dinner once. That equates to one full day of eating out per week from the 21 standard meals in a 7-day span.

But hold the love handles, folks...this doesn't account for the delivery and takeout orders that many tired and time-crunched professionals make a nightly routine.

This also neglects to consider all the other daily menu-ordering opportunities that magically appear for today's executives like breakfast buffets, coffee shop snacks, food truck runs, catered meetings, plated events, co-worker happy hours and food-stationed celebrations!

And professionals really wonder why they can't feel energized, clear their mind or lose weight?

I love dining out, having others cook and traveling for work/play as much as the next professional, so I'm going to share my Restaurant SURVIVAL Guide for feeling, looking and working your very best!

So what are we trying to survive when we are eating out and ordering from menus?

The five major risks to falling off the path to happiness, health and productivity when eating at a restaurant are: high carbohydrates, high calories, large portions, unhealthy ingredients (sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, unhealthy animal products, food allergens) and the biggest threat to restaurant survival...your mentality.

This my friends, is the real killer. When you walk into a restaurant your mind commands you to...order everything! Must clean plate! Diet starts tomorrow! Partaaay!


To increase your chances of survival and reduce your risk at restaurants, I'd like to present four carbohydrate booby traps that clients fall victim to that are all outside of your actual meal!

1. Drinks

The first thing the wait staff offers you is a glass full of carbohydrates when you sit down. Every drink on a menu is either made up of primarily carbohydrates (sugar), has added sugar or uses artificial sweetener in the largest glass possible. This counts for at least one serving of carbohydrates and sets you up for diet distress. Don't drink your calories.

2. Freebies

Well well well, look at what the wait staff has brought to the table next! Bread, rolls, chips, popcorn and more are served before the meal. There is no free lunch...not only is the cost of these giveaways built into the price of your meal, but these freebies come with even more carbs and calories. Now you've had two servings of carbohydrates even before you've decided what to order. Forget the freebies.

3. Appetizers

Appetizers can be used as a great restaurant survival strategy to reduce your portions by substituting them for an entree. Also picking a protein and/or vegetable-based appetizers is a winning choice, but most appetizers are fried carbohydrate bombs. Take the spring roll for example, the word 'spring' is the only thing that resembles anything healthy! This dish is basically fried dough wrapped around some iceberg lettuce with a sugar-based dipping sauce to add color and flavor. The tally is now up to three carbohydrate servings all before your meal!

4. Dessert

Did you leave room for dessert? Of course you did! Ordering dessert would be the fourth serving of carbohydrates not including your actual meal. Professionals forget that the drink, freebie and appetizer were forms of dessert (carbohydrates). It is clear to see how eating out can get out of control fast! Another must-do restaurant survival strategy is to pick one carbohydrate for the entire meal: drink, freebie, appetizer or dessert.

Ordering Dinner

You have reached the main event...the meal. It's very likely that wherever you order for your dish will come with one or two large servings of carbohydrates as well. Just think about the main dishes of some of your favorite restaurants:

-Italian restaurant = pasta
-Mexican restaurant = rice, beans and tortillas
-Japanese = white rice and noodles
-Chinese = white rice and noodles
-Indian = naan and white rice
-American and other restaurants = wraps, bread/toast, croutons, bread sticks, English muffins, bagels, muffins, buns, noodles, potatoes, fries, rice, quinoa or couscous

The key when ordering the main course is to pick a dish with the protein you want and then ask to substitute the carbohydrate for a green, non-starchy vegetable or side salad.

Count Up The Carbs

Now let's play a little game called 'Count Up The Carbs' to see how well you have been learning from the Restaurant SURVIVAL Guide. Take a look below at this example of what appears to be a healthy dinner...can you count up the carbs?

See image here:

Yep, four!

I spy wine, bread, dipping sauce and some sort of potato or starch on the meal plate.

Here is why having so many carbohydrates spells TROUBLE.

A high the ratio of carbohydrates to protein will increase the sugar and fat-storing hormone insulin. Anytime there are more carbohydrates (fruit, starches, grains, drinks, sauces, condiments and sweets) than protein, your body will store the meal as fat due to the release of insulin. In the dinner picture above there is a 4 carbohydrate to 1 protein ratio which means insulin will be released.

When you have a higher ratio of protein to carbohydrates the body releases the hormone glucagon which helps use carbohydrates, fat and protein for fuel! Both vegetables and fat do not have a hormonal response so they are the life preservers in restaurant survival - always incorporate them into your meal as much as you can. Notice in the image above how ordering meat with a vegetable side plus a salad with fat will completely overpower one glass of wine. By ordering this high amount of protein, fat and vegetables you will balance out 1-2 glasses of wine, a dessert, or a carbohydrate-rich freebie or appetizer.

In summary the Restaurant SURVIVAL Guide is very simple:

-Don't drink your calories
-Forget the freebies
-Non-fried protein and vegetable-based appetizers only
-Choose one carbohydrate for the entire meal (dessert, wine, bread, fries, appetizer)
-Always count a high protein, fat and vegetables ratio

The application of this information is where you really take a bite out of creating the work-life you envision.

So let's put down the fork, push the plate away and place our napkin on the table...it's time to get to work.

Check please!

Author's Bio: 

Lance Breger is the CEO and Executive Wellness Coach of Infinity Wellness Partners, a comprehensive corporate wellness company that prepares executives and organizations for the most productive and healthy work-life. Lance has led online/on-site training programs for thousands of professionals through his company’s four pillars of wellness: fitness, nutrition, mind/body and ergonomics.

Lance was named a Top 25 Health Promotion Professional in the nation by the Wellness Council of America, serves as a Master Instructor for the American Council on Exercise and is a recipient of the IDEA Health & Fitness Association Program Director of the Year award.