Eating out can be a nightmare for anyone trying to lose weight. Portion sizes have been steadily increasing over the past 25 years. Fat, sugar and salt are added to meals at alarming rates. Just a casual walk down the street prompts you with hundreds of enticing food cues that can be difficult to turn down, especially if you’re hungry. This is the world we live in and something we will always have to deal with.
But this post is not all doom and gloom!
The good news is there are plenty of tried and true strategies for eating out and still making good choices AND there have been some improvements in the last 5-10 years in the restaurant industry that makes this much easier than it used to be.
Your first line of defense when eating out, should always be to look up the menu ahead of time.
Even if you only have a minute or two this could save you an obscene amount of calories and allows you to make a much more informed choice. When presented with a menu with no calorie counts listed, it can be really difficult to know what to choose. There are tons of so called healthy meals (i.e. salads, fish) that can rack upwards of 1200 calories per dish. This can be a source of frustration and stress, so it’s best avoided if possible. It is possible for you to enjoy your time dining out AND make decisions that are not regretted later. I know it can be done and I see it happen on a daily basis with my clients.
Also important, is to have a list in mind of all the restaurants in your area that have calories listed somewhere. You should have this list memorized, so that if the decision of where to eat is in your hands, you can suggest a place that will make it easier for you to make a good choice. If you can’t think of at least 5 restaurants in your area that have nutrition information listed either on their menu or online, you need to google that information ASAP and make a list somewhere.
Next, never arrive hungry at a restaurant! This is so simple, yet often overlooked. We stop making rational decisions about food when we’re starving and the influence of food cues (sights and sounds) increases dramatically. Even a glass of water or a few grapes, can make the difference between choosing a 600 calorie meal or a 1200 calorie meal.
Okay, so your butt is in the seat, you’re not too hungry, and you’ve looked up the menu ahead of time. Hopefully you have a few meals in mind at this point that won’t blow your day. Make sure you order first so that you’re not tempted by everyone else’s order.
Let’s say you couldn’t find any calorie information, either online or in the restaurant, here are some quick and dirty tips to help you minimize your calorie intake.
Notice all of my suggestions begin with asking your waiter something. Don't be shy about asking tons of questions and asking for substitutions. The waiter is your best friend in this scenario. They are your only link between you and the food.
Use them to your advantage.
I want you to be able to leave a restaurant without any of the guilt typically associated with overeating. It’ll take some practice, but over time, it’ll become your new normal and eating out won’t seem like such a daunting task!