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How to Dine Out Without Gaining Weight

lifestyle nutrition Feb 01, 2022

Dining out is a part of our daily lifestyle. Americans eat out nearly one out of every four meals and snacks. 

This can create a challenge if you are trying to maintain your weight.  Unlike eating at home, the ability to control the type of ingredients or methods used in preparing, as well as portion control become very difficult.  Often, restaurant meals typically contain more calories, sodium, and saturated and trans fat than meals eaten at home.

Can you relate to any of these questions below? If so, read on!

  • Do you find yourself eating and drinking more while in a social setting?
  • Do certain people or a particular restaurant trigger you to eat more?
  • Are you eating away from home due to other obligations (i.e., Work, travel, lunch meeting, meals on the run, obligations for your kids, etc.)
  • Do you find it difficult to prepare meals at home due to time restraints?
  • Do you lack the time to get to a grocery store?
  • Are you unsure of what to cook that is healthy?
  • Do you eat out at least 2 meals a week?

We have some tips you can follow to ensure your dining out experience is healthier – and make sure you can still have a good time! 

You don’t need to have a salad with dressing on the side every single time to avoid weight gain. We know that’s not reasonable, and we don’t want to do that either! But by following some of these tips, you won’t experience weight gain that can come with eating out – especially during summer vacation.

Dining Out

  • Determine where and with whom you will eat.
  • Consult online menus and nutritional information ahead of time to help you plan out your meal.
  • Order first, so that you don’t get swayed by your companions’ food choices. Plus, you might just a set a good example and influence others to order better.
  • Avoid “all-you-can-eat” restaurants. It’s too easy to give in to “getting your money’s worth”.
  • Choose restaurants where you know you can find a healthy option.
  • Eat slowly and enjoy every bite of your meal.
  • Drink water.
  • Refuse the bread/chip basket that is offered when you sit down at the table. You can always ask for a plate of veggies and salsa or olive oil and balsamic vinegar instead (yes, they will do it for you, if you ask).
  • Ask questions about preparation method and menu substitutions (i.e., dressing on the side, double vegetables instead of pasta).
  • Stop eating when you begin to feel full (on a scale of 1 to 10, about a 6 or 7).
  • Choose foods in their simplest forms. The closer a food looks like it’s true self, the less processed and better for you it is.

Parties and Celebrations

It is barbecue season, after all. Party time! Celebrations are usually filled with carbs and sugar; think chips, pizza, pasta, cookies… how can you follow your clean eating lifestyle at a party still? (with an indulgence or two)

  • Don’t go into the party hungry. Have a mini-meal before you get there. Think produce + protein + healthy fat. This combination will take the edge off of your hunger so that you don’t have the urge to attach the food at the party.
  • Keep as far from the food tables as possible. Find someone to talk to so that you don’t get bored or distracted – then you won’t end up with a face full of food.
  • Watch your alcohol. Having a drink or two will loosen up your inhibitions and increase your food intake. Choose a wine spritzer or light beer.  Alternate alcoholic beverages with water to stay hydrated.
  • Survey the buffet before you take anything. Then make a plan. Cover half of your plate with veggies and salad. The other half of the plate should have some protein (i.e., fish, chicken) and maybe one or two small spoonfuls of something that looks interesting or irresistible. No deprivation, but no binging either. One plate of food (not piled a mile high!) should be enough.
  • Do not allow the host/hostess or friends to pressure you into eating. It’s ok to say “No” to a food offering.

Dining out is a normal part of life and doesn’t have to be a diet disaster. You are in charge of what you eat. Choose what you want to eat – salad, pizza, or steak and mashed potatoes – and be good with your choice. Enjoy every bite. Remember, food is fuel.