I love discovering new FLF lunch spots around town. Last week, my husband and I met up for a lunch date at the new First Watch in the Brier Creek area of Raleigh. I’d seen these restaurants while traveling for work (especially in Florida), but had yet to actually try one!
The First Watch menu is great: loads of healthy options like omelets, frittatas, salads, and bowls - with one catch. Most of the items on the menu (all of which have nutrition info posted) were around 1000 calories, or within a couple hundred calories of that.
While everyone has different caloric intake needs, I think we can all agree that for lunch, that's a hefty amount of your daily caloric intake. And the worst part? Unless you saw it printed in black and white on the menu, you'd probably estimate your meal clocking in much lower because of words like, "healthy" and "superfoods" and "fresh."
There is a definite “halo effect” at play here. When you order your big, healthy salad, you’re probably not thinking it’s packing 1,000 calories are you? No! You're probably thinking about how virtuous you are, skipping the tacos and burgers and fries for a big plate of vegetables and protein:
"I'm being SO good right now eating a salad! I should probably treat myself to some extra dark chocolate later!"
(NO? Okay so that's just me then?)
At FLF, we see women making this mistake all the time - and I used to do it too!
I thought that because a food or meal was healthy, it was automatically good for fat loss.
To lose fat, you need a caloric deficit and balanced hormones. Spending 1,000 calories on lunch will likely make achieving a caloric deficit harder. You can over-eat healthy foods just like you can over-eat burgers, Doritos and Snickers bars. Extra calories are extra calories.
This focus on "eating healthy” - without digging deeper into what you're really consuming - can easily lead to a caloric surplus (i.e. consuming more fuel than your body needs for the day) which ultimately results in weight gain. This is especially true if you follow up your 1,000+ calorie lunch with 4+ hours of sedentary desk work, sitting in afternoon meetings, etc.
The lesson here isn’t “Never eat out.” It is "Eat out smarter."
While I love and prefer cooking at home, it’s extremely unrealistic with my busy schedule that I will NEVER eat out. That I will ONLY eat homemade food.
This is where a restaurant like First Watch can become part of a lean lifestyle. You just have to know how to navigate it.
Learn to Eyeball Portion Sizes
It seems like restaurants fall into one of two categories:
- They give you enough food to feed a family of 4; or,
- They give you toddler-sized portions.
A serving of steak is 3-4 ounces, yet restaurant menus regularly list 12, 16+ ounce steaks. On the flip side, I've been known to order "double chicken" at some restaurants because their serving sizes are so small!
We use the size of our palms as a guide. 3-4 ounces of protein is about the size and thickness of your palm.
This is something we focus on in Fat Loss Cooking School: Learning to "see" what the right amount of food looks like for you. We can't go through life with a food scale and measuring cups in our purses! This inability to handle eating out usually learns to a "screw it" mentality where women feel like, "Well, there's no way I can eat anything remotely close to 'on program' here so I might as well screw it and have a burger and fries and get back on track tomorrow. Or Monday. Or in the Fall."
NO. NO NO NO. Those are not your only two options! We teach women how to create an individualized template for their meals that contain protein, fat, and carbs, and the right amount of each. If you see too much food on your plate, ask for a box and you've got lunch for tomorrow!
While we NEVER recommend weighing and measuring your food every day for the rest of your life, working with a food scale in your kitchen can be a really valuable teaching tool when you're starting out.
Most of our clients are shocked when they see how much they REALLY need to eat. They realize they've been under-eating certain foods (usually protein and carbs) and over-eating others (usually fats).
Once you learn what the right amount of food for you looks like, it becomes much easier to re-create that anywhere you go - even restaurants.
Customize Your Order
On the First Watch website, there’s a feature that lets you customize menu items simply by clicking the ingredients. It automatically tallies the calories and shows you grams of protein, fat, and carbs. This is REALLY valuable info for making your meal more fat loss friendly.
For example, I ordered the SuperFood Kale Salad, which originally clocked in at 770 calories, 38 g. fat, 36 g. protein, and 68 g. carbs. That’s a few hundred calories more than I typically consume at lunch, so I made a few simple changes:
No dried cranberries (-50 calories, all from carbs)
Lemon Maple Vinaigrette on the side (-260 calories, 24 grams of fat and 11 g. carbs) I ended up using half the dressing (two spoonfuls) and it was more than enough!
No bread on the side (-120 calories, again, mostly from carbs
Even at restaurants without a spiffy nutrition calculator, you can always make modifications to your meal! I ask lots of questions when ordering my meals and am not afraid to make special requests. I always profusely thank the server for accommodating my special requests!
With these three modifications, I knocked 300 calories off this lunch and still had a massive amount of good, quality food: kale, mixed greens, chicken, roasted carrots, almonds, and the vinaigrette! I didn’t make the meal “zero carbs” or “low fat” - in fact, it was a pretty balanced combo of protein, fat, and carbs.
I was full and had steady energy for the afternoon, AND I got to have lunch with my husband so that’s a win all around!
This salad combination was so freaking delicious though. Of course I had to re-create it at home! This isn't exactly the same as the First Watch SuperFood kale salad but it's close! The combination of warm chicken and roasted carrots make this especially good!
4 large organic carrots, peeled and chopped into discs (see note below)
2 tsp. avocado oil
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
salt & pepper to taste
2 large handfuls of chopped kale
2 large handfuls of mixed greens
1 piece of FLF 22-minute Chicken, chopped
1/4 c. slivered almonds
4 Tbs. of Tessemae's Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette (*see note below)
Optional: shaved parmesan for garnish
NOTE: You will not use all 4 carrots for this salad, but our philosophy here at FLF is "Cook once. Eat twice." By roasting extra carrots, you'll have leftovers for another salad the next day!
If you don't have Tessemae's Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette, you could make your own dressing! Any combination of an acid + sweetness - Lemon-Maple, Maple-Balsamic, Honey-Dijon - would be great!
1. PREPARE ROASTED CARROTS: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss chopped carrots on baking sheet and drizzle with avocado oil. Season with dried thyme, salt and pepper, and toss with clean hands to combine.
2. Roast carrots in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, or until fork-tender. You want them to still have a bit of "bite" to them, so don't over-roast them!
3. In a large bowl, combine kale, mixed greens, chicken, almonds, and the warm, roasted carrots. Add dressing and toss with tongs to combine.
4. Plate and top with shaved parmesan if desire. Serves 2.