Eating Healthy at Social Gatherings
Eating Healthy at Social Gatherings
How To Eat at Social Events while Burning Fat And Building Muscle
Eating Healthy at Social Gatherings
The Objective of this Article
Eating Healthy at Social Gatherings – What I Mean by “Healthy”
Never Never Never – 100% Clean Eating
NOW NOW NOW! – Cheat Days
My Recommendation – “Now or Later”
Calories Still Count – Never just “Wing it”
Top Ten Tips for Healthy Eating at Social Gatherings
Counting Down the Days
Don’t put too much emphasis or build up on a pending social event. If you count down the days to a big eating event like a prisoner counting down days to being released, I can almost guarantee that you will end up eating way more than you planned. When people do this and the final day arrives, they can’t contain themselves, go bonkers, eat a bunch of crap, undo a ton of progress and then go back to dieting in a feeble attempt to make up for it.
Take it nice and slow – don’t do anything stupid in the days before. No need to train your butt off and crash diet, no need to up your cardio to two hours a day. You’ll just end up eating more junk if you do. This is due to a combination of psychology and physiology (i.e. plummeting leptin.)
Make it a Refeed Day
If you are in a calorie deficit during a fat loss phase, using a carb cycling technique called a “refeed” is an awesome way to integrate social gatherings. During the other days of the week, maintain your normal calorie deficit and continue to “take steps forward” in your fat loss progress. Then during the day of your social event, you can increase your calorie intake all the way up to maintenance, or a slight surplus.
By treating the day as a planned refeed instead of a “cheat day”, you are setting a controlled caloric target of how much you can eat (tracking calories just like any other day), before going back to your regular deficit calories. This way, its like you’re taking six step forwards, and one day standing still, during the week of your event, which is way better than taking six step forwards and then falling 6 steps backwards from an out of control cheat day.
The additional calories for the day should come mainly in the form of carbohydrates. This actually provides numerous benefits to your metabolism, glycogen stores, energy, hunger levels and diet adherence. I’ve written an entire section on the benefits of carb cycling, including a guide on how to implement it. Click the button below to check it out.
Budget your Social Calories
Now that you’ve given yourself more calories to play with (refeed day instead of deficit day), it’s time to decide how much of those day’s calories you want to allocate to your social eating event itself. Just like not knowing exactly how much you’ll spend on an overseas holiday trip, you can simply allocate a calorie budget to work from, and go from there. For instance, you have 2500 calories available for the day, you can allocate anywhere from 30 – 80% of those calories for an social dinner in the evening.
If you choose to select the higher proportion of calories (in this case 2000), just remember that only leaves 20% (e.g. 500 calories) for the majority of the day. For someone who does intermittent fasting (details here), then you may find this easy, but if you predict that arriving at the event too hungry will cause you to go off the rails at eat everything in sight, then it may not be the best choice.
If you choose to select the lower proportion of calories (say 750 calories), you won’t be as hungry when you arrive for dinner. The only downside here is that you are more restricted in how much you can eat for the evening.
Tracking Calories at the Event
Before the social event began, you can set yourself a calorie budget to work from. But when you’re at your social eating occasion, you probably won’t know the calories in your meals, or at best, you will only be able estimate or guess. For example, eating at restaurants, eating at friend’s homes, or even eating home-cooked meals when the recipe is cooked in big batches.
Research the restaurant website: Look at menus and calorie information online in advance and make specific choices of what to eat before you arrive.
Use a calorie counter app: Simply look up the combination meal, whether that’s chicken tacos, spaghetti and meatballs or stew. Chances are, those types of meals are in a good calorie data base, right along with the individual foods. It may not be identical to the meal you’re eating, but at least it will be in the ballpark if the serving size is matched. Heres a link to the MyFitnessPal app in iTunes.
If you do your own cooking, the calories and macros in your home-cooked foods and recipes can still be very easily counted in most cases, even when it’s a big pot of stew, or a recipe with multiple ingredients.
Use intuition: Use common sense and restraint by choosing healthy, low-calorie foods (avoiding the obvious calorie bombs) and be disciplined about eating small portions (use a small plate). Pay attention to your feelings of fullness and stop eating when you feel only 80% full.
Like most parties, the foods available during your social event are probably going to be higher in carbs and fats, and lower in protein. With that in mind, the best way to allow for that is to stick to high protein, low carb, low fat foods at all other times during that day.
For example, if you have an lunch work buffet tomorrow, you could allow for that by planning to have a protein shake for breakfast before the buffet, and then some lean chicken breast and fibrous veggies for dinner afterwards. This leaves you ample carbs and fats in your macro targets to enjoy during lunchtime. Want a great high protein, low carb, low fat meal that fills me right up? Check out this “Protein Fluff” recipe (only 260 calories)
Protein and Veggies First
Try to fill up first on protein and veggies in your early meals and save the more calorie-dense stuff for later on (i.e. treats, cakes and alcohol), after you’re hunger has reduced from the main meal.
During your social eating event, you can choose to spend your calorie allocation however you wish. But to ensure minimal fat storage and maximum satisfaction (feeling fuller on less calories), I suggest firstly going for foods containing protein (i.e. lean meats, fish, eggs) and foods high in volume (i.e. veggies).
Eating protein during the event will fill you up more and leave you feeling more satisfied, which reduces the chances of you going over your remaining calorie budget. You can then use your calorie remainder to enjoy some carbs to finish (i.e. desserts). Protein also has a higher thermic effect (requires more calories to digest), which will help with any required “damage control”.
Smart and Selective Spending
Studies show that when people are presented with multiple food-choices (i.e. buffets), they eat more. By instead being selective of the food choices you allow yourself, (only choose which you absolutely love and crave), can be effective to regulate calories and not feel deprived. Remember, you don’t need to taste of every single food and treat that is offered. Go with what you truly enjoy eating and skip the rest.
That being said, it also pays to be a little smart with your calorie spending. Any food is fine if it fits your calorie and macro allowances, but be aware it may not fill you up or satisfy you as much compared to other options. It’s up to you.
My Own Experience: “When I enjoy social events, I tend to skip the snacks and appetisers and finger foods at the start of the evening. That way I am saving my calories for the main meal, and the dessert that always follows.”
Note: food items below are taken from the UK Nutracheck website
High calorie foods
(Least filling, least nutrition, most calories)
If you choose to eat say a doughnut, thats probably all you’ll be able to fit in your calorie “budget” for the evening.
- Chips / Doritos – 354 cal / small bag.
- Salted Butter Popcorn – 317 cal / 80g.
- Chocolate buttons – 340 cal / small pack.
- Ice cream – 170 cal / small scoop.
- Doughnut (glazed) – 410 cal / doughnut.
- Fish and chips – 838 cal / medium portion.
Low calorie foods options
(More filling, more nutrition, less calories)
By eating more of these, you’ll be budgeting your calories much more wisely and getting much more bang for your buck.
- Carrot sticks – 14 cal / 60g.
- Plain popcorn – 194 cal / bag.
- Pineapple pieces – 41 cal / 100g.
- Frozen yogurt (plain) – 112 cal / 125g pot.
- Strawberries – 27 cal / 8 strawberries (100g).
- Salmon Grilled – 215 cal / 1 steak (100g).
- Water melon – 28 cal / 100g.
- Lamb chops – 149 cal / 70g boneless portion.
- Beef Mince (lean) – 177 cal / 100g.
Restaurants and Buffets
People eat out twice as much now as they did 20 years ago with the average person eating out 4.2 times per week. During that time obesity has tripled! What’s the problem with buffets and restaurants? Firstly it’s down to the big food portions and the high calorie meals. Many typical restaurant meals can contain over 1000 calories in the main course alone! If you add an appetiser and a dessert you could add another 1000 calories easily. One slice of cheesecake alone has over 700 calories in it, cheese nachos or mozzarella sticks have 800 calories and a typical steak with fries has 1200 calories. That’s half your daily calories for the day just to maintain your weight gone right there.
Do what lean people do and keep restaurant foods to once or twice a week, and make smart choices with quantity and quality while eating out. Here are some tips:
- At buffets, take a small plate and only visit the buffet once.
- Don’t order sugary soda. Enjoy plenty of table water.
- Don’t let the waiter put any extra bread on the table.
- If you’re having a starter, have a low calorie salad instead of high calorie appetisers.
- Ask your waiter how foods are prepared (extra sauces, oil, butter).
- Ask for sauces on the side so you can control the amount you put on.
- Eat dinner slowly and allow time to feel full (around 20 minutes).
- Once you’ve had enough, take the rest home in a bag for later.
- Wait at least 15 – 20 minutes after your main course until thinking about ordering any more.
- Order a small portion. If you finish it and are honestly still hungry 15 minutes later, then order a small extra.
- Feel free to use spices, pepper, herbs, mustard, lemon juice and vinegar with your orders.
- Healthy dessert alternatives include fresh fruit, frozen yogurt, frozen fruit ices, sugar free jello.
- I recommend to keep desserts for home. They taste much better when you make them yourself. Commercially processed desserts taste like crap.
Burn More Calories – Get Active!
By choosing low calorie foods in moderation, you can control the calorie intake. But you can also control your calorie balance by burning more calories during your social event. This is especially true if you’re going to a raving party. There’s walking involved and dancing and a decent amount of movement.
Remember, as long as you are consuming less calories than you’re burning, there’s simply no way of storing fat. Most likely, you’ll wake up leaner than before. If you enjoy the evening by standing, walking, dancing, jumping and generally being as active as possible, you can burn a tonne of calories!
Just be aware that burning more calories, DOESN’T mean you can eat more. Stick to the same daily calorie budget as you always do, and use the additional calorie burn as a bonus to your progress. It will also keep you busy, boost your metabolism, and can divert your appetite from mindlessly sitting around and eating.
How many calories could I burn?
Aim for activities that use large muscle groups, namely your legs or your arms or both, to elevate your heart rate for a prolonged period of time. By understanding how many calories you are actually likely to burn in these activities, you can manage your food intake accordingly without inadvertently underestimating your calorie burn. Click here for a full guide on cardio.
Note: Calories burned are average for 180lb male for 30 minutes. Click here for full complete calorie burn details.
Calories burned (30 minutes for 180lb adult)
What about Alcohol?
At the end of the day, it’s your choice. If you wanna drink and have a crazy time, that’s fine. If you are a wine or beer lover, it’s better to go ahead and enjoy your drink in moderation. For some people, attempts at forced total abstinence could lead to binges, it can make long term dietary compliance more difficult and sabotage weight maintenance efforts altogether.
Drinking alcohol can be part of your calorie budget for the event, but remember the calories for those drinks means less calories for food. By setting yourself a budget of 1 – 2 drinks of beer, wine or a cocktail, then that will only be 250-300 calories. Alternatively, you can save your calories for food by drinking water and diet soft drinks instead. Again, it’s up to you. Click the link below for a free alcohol drinking guide.
My Closing Thoughts
“So the bottom line on eating healthy at social gatherings is: eat whatever you want, but always know what you are getting yourself into calorie-wise. Treat meals are integrated into my GeorgeHealth fat loss programs to allow you guys to enjoy the taste of all the foods you find appealing as part of a healthy relationship with food.
Just make sure you mindfully apply the strategies above: two uncontrolled meals can easily destroy a whole week of work including all the fat loss benefits from all your workouts. Poof! Gone! That goes DOUBLE for short, small-framed women who don’t have high BMR’s to begin with and so they don’t have a lot of calories to work with.
The key is to remember that for fat loss, calories always matter. For health, your food quality matters as well. I’m assuming you want to be lean and healthy, not one or the other. Therefore, “junk food” meals should be eaten not only in measured amounts, but also infrequently. You can always tell yourself, “later”.
Also, I wouldn’t be terribly worried about most junk foods if they are eaten infrequently in small quantities. It’s the dose that makes the poison. I eat so much nutritious, unprocessed food, and I have treat meals so infrequently, that when I do eat a treat meal, whatever it is, I don’t give the type of food a second thought, I just enjoy it – in a reasonable quantity that fits my calorie and macro limits.
First time on the GeorgeHealth website? Click here. Alternatively, if you want to chat to me about this, feel free to contact me by clicking here.“
Eating Healthy at Social Gatherings
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Eating Healthy at Social Gatherings