how to hit your macros when you’re not in control of the food

Of all the misconceptions in the dieting world, one of the most painful is that eating healthy and eating out are mutually exclusive.

My experience with teaching hundreds of clients the principles of successful macro tracking for their body goals has proven time and time again that it is completely possible to hit macro targets (or come close!) when you are not in control of the food.

Enter: a holiday weekend ahead of you!

If you count macros, you will be confronted with the challenge of figuring out how to hit macros at restaurants. Read on to see 5 considerations to help you nail macro goals while eating away from home.  

take an honest assessment of your goals

Your goals will dictate how strict you need to be when it comes to hitting macros this holiday weekend.

For example, if you have a timeline attached to wanting a leaner body composition, every meal matters and you need to be more diligent with tracking your macros.

For most, being more flexible with macro tracking for a few days will not completely deter them on the path to their goals. Take an honest assessment of your goals and the decide if going slower or quicker towards them feels best.

carve out space for meals

Here are some ways you might carve some space in your macros to allow for the calorie heavy options at your weekend bbq!

  • pad your diary with extra fat macros (1 tsp to 1TB) to account for fat used in preparation of dishes you don’t prepare yourself
  • save about a third of your calories for your meal you plan to eat away from home, primarily from carbohydrate and fat
  • emphasize protein and non-starchy veggies in your other meals during the day (cuz it’s usually harder to protein targets with meals prepared by others!)

choose options you can guesstimate the macros for

Here are some examples of easier-to-track dishes you might encounter this weekend:

  • salads with dressing on the side topped with grilled or raw proteins
  • wraps, burgers or sandwiches with sauce on the side, made with grilled or raw proteins
  • standard American fare with a choice of protein + vegetable + grain or starchy vegetable
  • grilled chicken, steak, pork, shrimp, brats, burgers, kabobs, corn on the cob
  • fruit and fruit salad
  • raw vegetables with self-serve dips such as hummus

make alterations to your meal where possible

Typically it’s easier to track macros for individual components of meals, versus mixed complicated dishes. So if you can, stick to meals that you can easily see the ingredients in front of you, that’s almost always going to be best for accuracy.

  • put the sauce on the side for salads, burgers, sandwiches
  • choose fresh over fried, cheese smothered, sauce-heavy options
  • choose whole food options over mixed dishes such as pasta salad, tuna salad
  • ask for extra protein or go back for seconds on protein-rich options
  • opt for a plate with lots of fruits and vegetables

lean on common sense

Eating in a group setting when you’re not in control of the food, can definitely pose challenges to tracking macros accurately. But, you can always lean on some time-tested, common sense basics of mindful eating such as:

  • review menus before you go, bring your own food options to a social outing if choice is limited
  • eat until you’re 80% full, not 100% or 120%
  • skip dessert, alcohol or anything else you absolutely do not want
  • split dishes with friends, bring food home with you
  • err the side of overestimating and slightly undereating your macro targets
  • make a macro balanced plate with protein, fat and carbohydrates

need more tips meal planning around your macros?