Eating out does not have to derail your weight loss efforts. Being prepared and having a strategic plan will allow you to eat out at almost any restaurant and still stay on track.
Before you go:
1. Plan ahead: Most restaurants have their menus online so before you head out, go online and plan out your meal choices. You can even call the restaurant ahead of time and ask if they can do certain substitutions to their dishes.
2. Never leave the house hungry! Make sure you have had a small snack before you leave (you don’t want to be starving when that bread basket hits the table!). Try to have a small nutrient dense, calorie light snack before you leave such as:
- 1 hard boiled egg with a tiny sprinkle of sea salt
- An apple with 1 oz low fat cheese
- An apple with 1 tablespoon natural peanut butter
- 2 Tablespoons hummus and veggie sticks
- 10 almonds and an orange
3. Plan for an early dinner: Always aim to keep three hours before your last meal and going to bed – this will prevent going to bed on a full stomach which will promote weight gain. Try and go for dinner on the earlier side to leave yourself enough time afterwards.
Once you arrive:
1. Avoid the bread basket trap: If you are with a group that does not want the bread, simply ask the waiter not the even bring it out. If it’s already on the table, order a protein appetizer that you can enjoy instead (i.e., shrimp cocktail, grilled calamari, steamed edamame, etc.)
2. Water, water,water: Try ordering a warm drink first thing such as hot water with some fresh lemon slices. This will help fill you up and keep your cravings to a minimum.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions: Always ask what your meal comes with and how it is prepared. If your meal comes with something fried or carb heavy (i.e., fries, potatoes, rice or pasta), ask them to substitute with grilled vegetables or a side salad. Always ask for salad dressing on the side so you can control how much goes on.
4. No cheese please: Lots of restaurants love to add cheese to dishes such as salads, sandwiches, chicken dishes etc. Added cheese can be a calorie overload so make sure you read carefully and ask them to leave out the cheese or put it on the side.
5. Order an appetizer as the main course: If something healthy catches your eye on the appetizer list, order that as your main and start with a soup or a salad. The portions will be smaller and much more manageable.
6. Focus on protein: When looking at the menu, always focus on ordering a good protein source such fish, chicken, and steak. This will help to fill you up and keep you full throughout the meal.
7. Skip the grain: Avoid ordering a grain with your meal. If you are getting a burger or chicken fajitas, ask for a lettuce wrap instead!
8. Watch the alcohol: Alcohol can stimulate hunger so never drink on an empty stomach. Always try to follow the 1:1 rule – follow a glass of wine with a full glass of water. Even try to cut the wine with ½ club soda or Perrier in a wine Spritzer or mix vodka with soda water to reduce the amount of alcohol you are taking in.
9. Watch portions: Most restaurants provide huge portions. Eyeball your serving size (the palm of your hand = 3 ounces of protein) and divide your portions accordingly. Make a mental note to have the rest packed-up for home. Less for you to cook the next day 🙂
10. Skip the desert: When dessert time comes around, it is often late into the evening. Try to skip the desert when you can to avoid those extra calories that are often void of healthy nutrients. If everyone at the table is having something, order a fresh fruit plate or a sorbet.