Eating in restaurants is a challenge for anyone who wants to manage their weight. Restaurant food can be loaded with fat, sugar, and salt. Plus, huge portions have a lot of calories that your waistline doesn’t need.
At home, you can make smart food choices and monitor your portion sizes. But, if you know a few strategies, you can also eat out and stick to your diet.
Your obvious first step is choosing a restaurant that you know has healthy, lean options. But even with your best intentions, you may find yourself on a trip with unfamiliar restaurants.
Or say you’re with a group of friends. You can try to take the lead and suggest to your friends that you go to a restaurant that has healthy options. But you may be outnumbered.
If you’ve done your best but still end up in an unhealthy restaurant, try the following survival tips.
1. Eat Half and Take the Rest Home
Restaurant portion sizes are out of control. So are the waistlines of most Americans. Eat half of your meal and take the rest home for lunch the next day.
2. Hold the Fat
Restaurants drench their food with lots of fat. Request that the kitchen hold any fat-based sauces. Ask for salad dressing on the side.
3. Order Your Food Grilled or Steamed
If the menu says “fried,” ask for your food to be grilled or steamed. Also, be aware of other terms that mean fried, including “crispy,” “batter-dipped,” and “tempura.”
4. Split an Entree
Cut your calories (and your bill!) in half. Split an entree with a friend.
5. Order an Appetizer Only
Appetizers are often appropriate portion sizes. And they can often be the tastiest and most creative choice on the menu. Order one as your main dish.
6. Build Your Own Meal
Scan the menu. You may see grilled vegetables in one dish, black beans in another, and a whole grain in another. Now, order these items a la carte.
7. Eat Before You Go Out to Eat
Before you meet friends for dinner, eat a small, healthy meal at home. This way, you won’t be ravenous and over-eat once you get to the restaurant.
8. Skip Dessert or Order the Fruit Plate
Some restaurant desserts come close to 1,500 calories. Your waistline will appreciate the fruit plate instead.
9. Focus on Family and Friends
At a restaurant, remember you have an opportunity to spend quality time with family, friends, and colleagues. Now is the time to have fun and meaningful interactions with the people you care about. Allow food to become a less important part of the social experience in a restaurant.