Breaking news, guys: If you're eating out, your meal likely has entirely too many calories.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that most dishes at chain restaurants such as Chipotle contain upward of 1,000 calories each (in reaction, Jezebel was quick to point it out that this is common knowledge, eloquently stating that they knowingly sacrifice their health for the “Colon Buster with Extra Diabetes”).
The report gave concrete examples, including your favorite Chipotle meals (hello, barbacoa burrito!) and their depressing calorie counts (1,085 calories, ouch). So what’s a pressed-for-time foodie to do on a lunch break?
“Always choose your protein first, then fat, then carb,” Macdonald tells HLN.
The rule: Protein + one fat + one carb
This specific sequence is very important and can help you cut out as many as 500 unnecessary calories. Since a lot of weight management comes down to balancing your blood sugar, Macdonald’s rule assures you’ll fill up on the good-for-you stuff and avoid the complex carbohydrates that spike your blood sugar and make your body store fat.
For the protein, Macdonald recommends chicken because it’s the leanest one Chipotle offers. He also suggests doubling the meat for both men and women, since restaurants don’t always give you the recommended amount.
Now that you’ve got your protein, choose just one fat: Cheese or guacamole or sour cream. Macdonald says one gram of fat has nine calories, so they add up fast if you choose all three.
Watch more: Mark Macdonald's restaurant rules
Same concept goes for carbs: You can only choose one, so go for either the tortilla or rice or beans.
“Carbs are cheaper, so they give you a bunch of fillers, which is killing you calorie-wise,” Macdonald tells HLN.
So, if you want a burrito, skip the rice and beans. If you’re really craving that tasty cilantro-lime rice, go for the brown rice and opt for the bowl, sans beans.
“Brown rice is healthier. It has fiber, so it doesn’t spike your blood sugar,” Macdonald tells HLN. “It also digests slower and prevents fat storage.”
Top it with as many fresh veggies (salsa, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, etc.) as you’d like, and you’re much closer to the recommended calorie count for a typical lunch: 300-350 for women and 400-450 for men.
Never go in hungry
If that’s less than what you’re used to eating at lunch and you find yourself hungry in the afternoon, Macdonald recommends grabbing a healthy snack, such as a protein bar, Greek yogurt with fruit, or string cheese with apple.
“The reason you crave a 1,000-calorie lunch is because you skip your mid-morning snack,” Macdonald tells HLN. “You overeat [at lunch], crash in the afternoon and are starving again for dinner.”
To avoid the blood sugar crash, Macdonald recommends eating five or six times a day and to never go into a Chipotle hungry.
“You shouldn’t be famished, so your eyes don’t order everything,” Macdonald tells HLN. “Start managing how you order and you won’t be ordering how Chipotle wants you to order.”