FAFH… sounds like fat and fluff rolled into one, right? Well, close. It stands for “Food Away From Home.” If you were like me over the holidays, then you probably get it.
Between December and January, I traveled a ton — from learning to ski during Christmas to the beach for New Year’s to the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas for work, it’s been a great (and busy) couple of weeks. But with that came the dreaded FAFH. This includes literally everything you could imagine: all the meals — breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, snacks, nonalcoholic beverages. It includes things you’d rather not imagine: fast food, takeout, delivery, food from concession stands, buffets and cafeterias; food from sit-down restaurants, vending machines and mobile vendors. In my case, I made “investments” in all of these categories over the past month.
This typically comes with extra (unwanted) calories…
Studies show that eating out at both fast-food and full-service restaurants resulted in diners consuming about 200 additional total daily calories, plus more sodium, sugar and saturated fat. Bummer.
On top of that, traveling to different time zones also messed with my sleep schedule — then, on top of that, I missed a few workouts. My thoughtfully packed outfits decided to sound the alarm before my eyes did, which meant my clothes didn’t fall the same way on my body as they did when I put them in my suitcase. (I should’ve packed pieces with more stretch … oh, hindsight.)
When you’re on your home turf, everything is easier to manage. You have more control over your meals and snacks (and workouts and sleep schedule), but when traveling or juggling a hectic schedule, you have to actively find ways to make eating out work. Here are some tips to get the most out of your FAFH:
1. SHARE THE SPLURGE
Chances are you’re out in a group, so use that to your advantage. If you really want that shrimp pesto pizza, order it for the table as an appetizer — share the dish, share the calories. Anyone who has ever eaten with me knows I’m usually the first to suggest a item or two “for the table.”
When eating with a friend, share a salad or appetizer along with an entree. Portion control is my number 1 issue. If it’s on my plate, I’m probably going to eat it. Sharing a meal means that I get to enjoy a variety, and it helps to ensure I won’t go too crazy. If you have the willpower, unlike me, save half of your meal for later and get two for the price of one.
2. MODIFY THE MEAL
Introduce smart swaps to make the meal work for you. Get your protein steamed, grilled or baked instead of fried, for example. Add something green and fresh to the mix (healthy side dishes are a good thing to include).
When I was in Vegas, I had to get an IN-N-Out burger on the way to the airport. It’s not an option on the East Coast (where I live now), and it transports me back to my college days on the West Coast. I knew I’d have to make some modifications because I wasn’t ready to blow my entire calorie allotment for the day on this one meal. So I went in with a game plan. I hydrated first, got my double double protein-style (i.e., wrapped in lettuce), no sauce (I’m just personally not that into the sauce) and shared my fries with the cab driver. And, to be entirely honest, I actually felt just as satisfied and less heavy than I usually do after eating that burger (with the bun and a full order of fries … and sometimes a shake). And, best of all: There was none of the guilt. Now if you want the milkshake, fries and the bun, which I totally understand, just recognize how much you are actually eating in this one meal and be prepared to compensate for it at other meals. Disclaimer: I’m not advocating IN-N-Out as a “health food” here, it’s a definite splurge — and we need to recognize that it’s OK to have these occasional splurges.
3. PILE ON THE PLANTS
I try to squeeze in fruit and veggies at every opportunity! Whenever I’m at a nice hotel, I basically look like a fruit smuggler walking out of the fitness center every morning — with a couple bananas, apples and oranges in hand. You can sometimes grab an apple or banana from that random bowl at the front desk of the hotel, too. Or add green peppers and/or tomatoes to your morning eggs or swap roasted carrots instead of potato wedges at dinner.
Get a fruit plate to start or end your meal. And, even if it’s not on the menu, a lot of restaurants can throw together a side of steamed or grilled veggies — broccoli or spinach should be attainable — just ask.
4. SIDELINE THE SAUCE
You’ve heard this before, but ask for your dressing and sauce on the side. There are a lot of hidden calories, sodium and fat in those deliciously drizzled condiments — when it’s on the side, you can control how much you are consuming.
5. DRINK UP
Fill your glass with water — I know, I know, everybody says that — but that’s because staying hydrated has major benefits! It’s especially important to stay hydrated when traveling, but it’s also a great way to cut back on empty calories and sugar when you don’t have control over your food options. The hotel gym is also my number 1 stop for H20. I either refill my bottle at the water fountain or grab the free bottles of water, if they have them.
After being home for just a couple weeks, I’ve taken control and I’m back in the game. I’m also almost back to my pretrip belt loop. It’s a work in progress, but my routine of homemade breakfasts and prepacked fresh snacks throughout the day helps me stay on point.
Do you have your own tips to make eating out work for you? I’d love to hear your tips for the UA Connected Fitness community! I’ll check out the comments for your advice!
Better Than Ever
We all strive for wellness and to live better! Every month, this column will bring you advice on how to feel and perform Better Than Ever. Check out tips to improve various aspects of your health: everything from fitness, nutrition, sleep and recovery. Have a topic you want to hear about? Feel free to reach out here (I’ll be checking the comments!) or on Twitter or Instagram. I look forward to hearing from you!