October 10th, 2018

Living On F-Factor: Weekend Brunch Survival Guide

You asked, we listened. Follower question of the week.

Q: Brunch is one of my favorite activities, how can I partake without derailing my week’s worth of diet success?

A: After the long workweek, a relaxing brunch with loved ones is essentially a right of passage. But with common dishes like Eggs Benedict, french toast, yogurt parfaits, bagels and avocado toast (not to mention bottomless cocktails), it’s easy for an innocuous brunch date to turn into 1,000+ calorie crusade. Of course, consuming upwards of 1,000 calories at just one meal would be inconsistent with our healthy eating habits, but that doesn’t mean you should have to give up your impossible-to-secure res at the latest hotspot either. F-Factor is all about living your life, which is why we’ve put together our top tips for surviving any type of weekend brunch. Whether it’s a Bagetelle, Lavo Brunch sitch on your calendar, a res at Sadelle’s or you’re hosting for 5, or 50, here’s your guide to successful brunching the F-Factor Way:

BRUNCH BASICS

Treat brunch as lunch. Eat a high-fiber breakfast before you go, and remember to save room for your afternoon snack. If your brunch is a boozy brunch, the breakfast part of the equation is especially important, as the actual eating takes a back seat to drinking, and the actual food is often sub par in quality and taste. Either way, by treating brunch as lunch you safeguard yourself from arriving ravenous and digging right into the bread basket, and can stay on track with your day.

BYO(F). We can’t speak for every restaurant, but from our years of personal brunching and anecdotal evidence, it’s fair to say that it’s OKAY to bring your fiber with you. Whether it’s GG crackers you’re bringing to swap in for toast (which can conveniently be transported in your a F-Factor snack carrier case), or an F-Factor 20/20 waffle to lather with cream cheese and lox instead of a bagel, we’ve found that as long as you’re not asking the server to go in the kitchen and use your home-brought foods, and you’re not bothering anyone else, it’s totally okay with them.

Pair fiber and protein. You still want to fill up on fiber and stay feeling full by pairing it with protein. Fiber and protein are the two nutrients that take the longest to digest. It is this perfect combination of foods that keeps your serum glucose levels consistent, leading to improved energy for the rest of the party.

Sip responsibly. Brunch may be a time to let your hair down and live a little, but when it comes to alcohol, you still need to maintain some semblance of sensibility. Stay away from juices, tonics and mixers, which can add up fast and tack on A LOT of sugar. Sangria, spiked cider and other cocktails are often full of juice (and therefore sugar) or just plain sugar too. Just ask what’s in the cocktails and be specific when ordering what you want.

Survey the sides. Many times menus don’t offer the exact clean meal you’re looking for, but ordering à la carte from the options of sides you can often piece one together. Two eggs any style (AKA you can get however you want!), mixed greens, smoked salmon, fruit salad, or a side of turkey bacon (2 slices are all you really need anyway) even, 2-4 of those and you’ve designed the meal you wanted. The best part about doing this is that often the sides won’t have heavy sauces or ingredients that the main dishes otherwise would, so you save on calories there too.

$plurge. Pay the extra $2 and swap out whole eggs for egg whites in your omelet or egg dish. Depending on the number of eggs used, springing for the egg whites only option can save you around 200 calories and 15g of fat.

Be a leader. When the waiter/waitress comes over to take orders, place your order first. If you order first, you set the tone for the meal and you’re less likely to be swayed by your fellow brunch-goers less responsible orders. And watch, chances are your healthy order will inspire your brunch mates to follow suit and order responsibly too.

Focus on the conversation. Remember, you were invited to brunch because of your personality, not your ability to lick the plate clean. You’re there to catch up with friends, not just eat, so engage in conversation and be present with your co-brunchers. This will also help to slow down how fast you eat, which will give your brain the adequate time to realize you are full, and you the opportunity to appreciate the people you are with. And, if the food isn’t the best meal you’ve ever had, it’s okay, because the enjoying the company you are with is really the ultimate goal, isn’t it?

Three bite rule. Someone order some insanely delicious looking Instagram-worthy shareable? Eggs come with truffle fries? Or they just happened to bring over free dessert? If you absolutely have to have it, indulge, but do so mindfully by practicing the three bite rule. Have 3 bites and 3 bites only–a first, a middle, and a last–which is all you really need to get a good taste and enjoy it, in a small enough quantity that it won’t destroy your entire day of eating.

Slow down, Speed Racer. Brunch is for kicking back and relaxing over food and drinks with people important to you, not marathon prep, so slow it down! Slowing down will allow you to enjoy every bite, and realize when you’re full, preventing you from eating too much. To help slow you down, aim to make a habit of putting your fork down between every bite. At first, this may require some additional focus to do, but in time it will become mindless and effectively slow your consumption, while allowing you to give proper attention to the people around you too. 

ORDERING

No need to let menu items trip you up. Cheat sheet for common brunch items here. 

PROCEED WITH CAUTIONSKIP 'EMBEST BETS
The following popular items on brunch menus tend to sound healthy, but often can be heavier than you may think. Proceed with caution, ask questions, and don’t be afraid to ask for some modifications.

Grain Bowls – Grain bowls often contain 2+ cups of grains like quinoa and farro, which although are healthy grains, are not necessarily the lightest fare to fill a bowl with (one cup of quinoa contains 220 calories and 39g carbs—that’s almost THREE slices of white bread!). If you want the grain bowl sans grains, simply ask your server to swap them out for greens. They may resist, but you won’t know if you don’t ask.

Avocado Toast – If weight loss or maintenance is your goal, restaurant-style avocado toast is NOT going to help get you there. Think about it, it’s a thick cut piece of bread, topped with avocado and drizzled with oil. An order can easily set you back 600 calories and 30+ grams of fat. (Read more: 5 reasons avocado toast is making you gain weight

Yogurt Parfait – Greek yogurt has nearly half the amount of carbs, and twice the protein of regular yogurt. The problem with ordering the yogurt option off a brunch menu is that you often don’t know if it is regular yogurt or Greek, or if it is Greek, if it is a full fat Greek yogurt, or non fat. Toppings like fruit, granola, honey and nuts aside, having a cup of full fat Greek yogurt instead of nonfat tacks on an extra 110 calories

Point blank there are better things to order on a menu than these guys, you’re not missing much by forgoing them.

Mimosas – Adding OJ to your champagne adds an additional 50 calories and 10g of pure sugar without any fiber. And because they’re tasty and easy to drink, 1 mimosa can turn into more than a few pretty quickly. If you’re going to have one, stick with just one. And with that being said, those all you can drink deals are never really worth it either. More often than not those drinks are well alcohol watered down by lots and lots of juice. If you’re looking to suffer from a bad hangover, they’re a sure fire way to make that happen for you. 

Eggs Benedict – A brunch favorite, but not a healthy an option for weight loss. Poached egg is undeniably a great way to prep eggs as they do not require additional oil for frying. However, the key player of Eggs Benedict, the Hollandaise sauce that usually floods the entire poached eggs, is essentially all fat. Hollandaise is an emulsion of egg yolk, butter and lemon juice, and it served with Eggs Benedict can add up to more than 400 calories! Add that on top of the English muffin or biscuit it’s all served on top of, and you’re looking at a 600 calorie dish easily. In order to not sabotage your waistline, try poached eggs with a side of whole grain toast and grilled asparagus or tomatoes.

Pancakes and Waffles – Unfortunately the chances of your brunch restaurant serving up F-Factor-style pancakes and waffles are rather slim. Traditional waffles and pancakes lack both fiber and protein, so they won’t keep you feeling satisfied very long. And once they’ve topped them off with whipped cream, syrups, fruit, nuts and chocolate chips, they become more like dessert anyway. If your sweet tooth is aching, and you can wait until you get home, opt for the F-Factor versions of these tasty treats (basic pancake recipe here, basic waffle recipe here), both can be made in under 15 minutes and the caloric savings are significant! If that aching sweet tooth needs it’s sugar-fix pronto, have a side of whole-wheat toast with apricot or raspberry preserves—the preserves should satisfy your craving, without giving you a crash-inducing sugar overdose.

These staples are solid, safe choices. Indulge freely with these. 

Coffee – Aside from helping your ability to hold a coherent convo, coffee is linked to a host of health and lifestyle benefits. Order it plain and simple (black, splash of unsweetened almond milk or half and half if you’re on Step 1) instead of a cappuccino or latte to keep calories and carbs from the milk to a minimum.

Bloody Mary – And the spicier, the better! Spicy foods, like the Tabasco sauce in this quintessential brunch cocktail, boost metabolism. To reap the benefits of spice and kick the heat up at brunch without ordering bloody, consider using hot sauce instead of ketchup with eggs, works the same way.

Egg white omelet with veggies – The veggies up the fiber-content and egg whites are pure protein. When it comes to cheese, choose feta over cheddar or Swiss, it’s lower in calories and fat and is full of flavor, so a little goes a long way. Spinach, mushroom and onion pairs well with feta in an omelette.

Not listed? Want more? Check out the F-Factor App for specific #FFACTORAPPROVED menu items at your brunch spot.

PRO TIPS FROM THE F-FACTOR STAFF

“I like to order a bloody mary and treat it as an appetizer – I ask for extra celery, gherkins etc and chomp on those while I’m waiting for my food instead of digging into a bread basket or any of the pastries on the brunch menu” – Amanda Ryman, F-Factor RD

“I have a big sweet tooth and would choose French toast over eggs any day. Starting my day with something sweet offsets the temptation to eat something sweet at brunch. So, I make myself an F-Factor 20/20 smoothie or F-Factor 20/20 waffles for breakfast, and then treat brunch as lunch and order an egg white omelet with a side salad or salad with smoked salmon.” – Samantha Hass, F-Factor RD

“I love sangria, but I don’t trust it just everywhere. When I see it on a menu and want to order it, I ask if they can just do wine with fruit added, instead of their pre-made mixture, so that I know what’s in it. Technically might not be “sangria” anymore, but its delicious.”- Jessica Rossman, F-Factor employee

“I always bring extra GGs. Even if no one I’m brunching with wants one, I often come into contact with someone at some point in the day who’s going to bring up the crackers, and in that case I’m happy to have for them to try.” – Jessica Rossman, F-Factor employee

I always order first so that I’m not tempted by other orders.” – Maria Stravopoulos, F-Factor RD

I like to hit the gym before a brunch, get in a quick sweat sesh. It sets my intentions for the day to make educated and smart decisions for the day.  It gives me that boost of endorphins, and allows me to clear my head before diving into my fiber and protein brunch meal.” – Jessica Robert, F-Factor employee

I always treat brunch as an opportunity to catch up with friends rather than an “eating for the insta” post! I keep my portions light by spoiling my appetite before the meal and pretending its a cocktail hour instead of an eating fest. Focus on the conversations and champs instead of the chomps! 🙂” – Shana Pantirer, F-Factor RD

“I generally skip the mimosas so I can double up on champagne–I know better than to let orange juice weigh me down” – Mike Park, F-Factor employee 

BRUNCH RECIPE ROUND UP 

Indulging in brunch doesn’t mean you need to head out to the latest avocado toast hot spot. You can make brunch at home for yourself, or for friends. Some of our favorite recipes for brunch here:

 


For more support in getting through brunch unscathed, consider making an appointment with an F-Factor Registered Dietitian.