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Eating out while trying to lose weight is always a challenge. While making your own meals is the easiest way to ensure you’ll lose weight on your diet plan, it’s unrealistic to expect that you won’t eat out at all. Here are some tips to make sure you stay on-track when eating out.
It’s important to note that one meal won’t ruin your diet – but when we’re talking about developing habits, we’re interested in what you do 95% of the time. If you’re eating out three or four times a week, you’ll need to pay close attention to what you’re eating when you order out.
Choosing the Restaurant
You won’t always be able to choose the restaurant, but if you have options, here are some tips:
- Look up the menu (and nutrition information if available) and make your selections before you get to the restaurant. When we’re hungry, we tend to default to high-calorie options.
- If nutrition information isn’t available, look for options that include vegetables, or look for restaurants that have a “lighter fare” section.
- Don’t skip meals to “save calories” for eating out. While intermittent fasting has been shown to be effective, restaurant meals tend to be higher in calories – so you may end up eating more calories overall.
Choosing Healthier Meals
If you don’t have the option of selecting your meal ahead of time, here are some general tips to keep in mind while reading the menu:
- Look for preparation methods like steamed, grilled, or broiled rather than fried, breaded or “smothered.”
- Avoid bread baskets, chips and other free appetizers. These can add hundreds of extra calories before your meal even arrives.
- Don’t feel the need to finish your plate. Restaurant portions are often enough to feed two people.
- If your meal doesn’t come with vegetables, ask if you can order them on the side. These will help fill you up without too many calories.
- If you’re drinking, stick to “one and done.”
- Celebrations are fine, but not every meal needs dessert. Chose a drink or a dessert, but not both.
If you’re having to grab a quick bite on the road or on the run, take a look at our Fast Food Quick Reference. It lists the calorie counts for common fast food items so you can get a sense of what foods – and what chains – have the most calorie-laden meals. Some of them might surprise you.