Tracking macros is a popular approach for losing weight, particularly fat.
It involves keeping track of how many calories you consume, as well as how those calories are split between the 3 main macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fats.
Tracking macros can be challenging especially when eating out where you may not know the macro split or calorie content of what you’re ordering.
The good news is that you can track your macros when eating out.
As I’ve covered in this article, tracking macros when eating out involves looking at restaurant menus for nutritional information, calculating macros based on ingredients (not meals), and watching out for extras.
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How to Track Macros When Eating Out
1) Check Out Nutritional Information Online
If you know that you’re going to a restaurant that evening or maybe later that week then you should look online at their menu and check out the nutritional information provided about each of their meals.
As well as the ingredients within a meal, many restaurants provide detailed nutritional information that includes the fat, carb, and protein content of their meals on their websites.
By looking in advance of going to a restaurant you can work out if a meal fits into your macros.
For example, if you want to maximize your protein intake then picking a meal that reflects this will help you to stay within your macro split even when eating out.
This nutritional information will also give you the calorie content of different meals. As with the macro split, knowing this in advance will help you to decide what to order.
However, it’s important to know that this information may not be totally accurate.
No two meals – even if they’re prepared by the same people in the same restaurant – are going to be the same.
The amount of ingredients is going to vary slightly.
If in doubt, my advice would be to overestimate what you think the calorie and macro content is.
For example, if a meal is 730 calories then this could be rounded up to 800 or even 850 calories.
Overestimating is better (especially when cutting) as this accounts for slight variations in the meal you’ve ordered and ensures you continue to see progress.
Whilst estimating macros can be frustrating if you want to be as precise as possible, it’s important to remember that a slight difference is unlikely to have a significant impact on your progress.
Consistently tracking what you’re eating is more important than being totally accurate and precise.
See also – Going over your macros?
Planning ahead and checking the nutrition content of a meal is better, as it can help you decide what to eat and plan in line with your macros split.
But if you find yourself at a restaurant and you haven’t had a chance to look at this information, then you can always do this afterwards.
2) Look at the Ingredients, Not the Meals
Some restaurants, especially larger chain restaurants, provide detailed information about the nutrition profile of their meals such as the calorie content and the amount of each macronutrient that they contain.
This makes it easy to track your macros. Unfortunately, this isn’t something all restaurants do.
If the restaurant you’re going to doesn’t provide information about the calories within a meal, or the fat, protein, and carb content, then you’ll have to work it out yourself and this is usually the part where most people struggle to track their macros when eating out.
One way of doing this is to use an app or website.
Some apps and websites provide nutritional information about specific meals.
For example, if you searched ‘beef burger’ in a macro tracking app or on a website you’ll see a range of answers.
The downside of this is that these answers vary significantly in the amount of calories and their macro content.
To be more accurate, it’s better to search for different ingredients on apps or websites.
So if you’ve eaten a beef burger in a restaurant then you should search the calorie and macro content of different ingredients, such as burger buns, meat patty, tomatoes, and so on.
Note – Apps like MyFitnessPal have an ever growing database so you can find ingredients and macros for popular chains and meals (think Mcdonalds or Taco Bell). It’s the local Italian restaurant or independent cafe that would be unlikely to be on an app.
See also – How to track macros without an app
Whilst this process is going to be more time consuming (though not hugely!) it is going to give you a much more accurate result than simply searching for a meal on an app or website.
To do this, you’ll also have to estimate the portion size of what you’re eating.
As with before, my recommendation is that you overestimate what portion size you think you have as this accounts for potential additional calories and macros.
3) Remember to Include Extras
When working out your calorie intake and the macro split of a restaurant, it’s important to remember extras like oil and butter used for cooking, as well as toppings and sauces.
If you cook at home when counting macros you may cut back on things like butter and oil that can add a lot of calories to your meals.
To enhance flavors, restaurants often use a lot of oil and butter when cooking.
It’s also common for them to add additional things like extra toppings and sauces which will also add more flavor to meals.
For the oil and butter content, many restaurants will say how foods have been prepared.
If they don’t, then this is something to ask the staff about to get an idea of whether you need to add extra fats to your macros split.
For things like toppings and sauces, these are also usually provided on the menu or staff will be able to tell you what else is added to a meal.
Whilst it may not seem like a lot, knowing about these extras and counting them in your macros can make a difference.
Tracking macros can be challenging for many people at the best of times.
When eating out, it’s normal to feel anxious about the calories you’ll be consuming and whether or not you can keep a log of the calories and macros.
Thankfully, we’re in the year 2023 and calories and macros are listed in far more places than you’d expect.
Some places (like the UK) have a legal obligation to show calories on the menu and may even show a macro breakdown.
This makes it much easier and less stressful to track macros when eating out.
With some forward planning, you can also easily plan and track what you are going to eat so not only can you keep a log of this, you can also plan it perfectly to meet your calorie and macro requirements.
If you’re still fairly new to tracking macros though then check out our quick guide with some of the best macro tracking tips to easily track macros any time, any place!