Dining out can be tricky when you’re trying to lose weight. For one, you have less control over the food that’s available for you to eat, and more importantly you have practically no control over how it’s prepared. You can starve yourself for an entire week and stay away from everything that’s high-fat, high-calorie, and high-sugar, only to gain it all back with just one dish because you just had to dine out that weekend.
It’s true. Eating out can wreck your diet if you’re not careful. It can negate all you worked hard for, so you’re better off eating at home. Right? Well, not always.
The thing is – there are times when you just can’t avoid eating out. Unless you want to be a hermit and live under a rock for the rest of your weight loss journey (which, let’s face it, can be indefinite), you can’t avoid eating somewhere other than your own home. Whether it’s an office dinner or your best friend’s birthday or a high school reunion, you’ll soon be faced with a restaurant menu whether you like it or not. So what is one to do?
The good news is, there are ways to dine out without wrecking all your plans and gaining back all those pounds that you’ve worked so hard to lose.
Do your homework.
Preparation is half the battle. If you already know that you’ve been invited for dinner to a certain restaurant this Saturday, you have all week to figure out what you’ll order. Knowing all your options and weighing them beforehand will make you a more informed diner, and it’s so much better than ordering on impulse. When you’re asked to order on the spot, you either cave in to the pressure of ordering the healthiest thing you think is on the menu (even if it’s not), or end up ordering something really really bad.
Salads and appetizers are your best friend.
When looking at a menu, pay special attention to the salads and appetizers. Not particularly because they’re healthier, but because they’re often served in smaller portions compared to the entrees. They’re cheaper as well, so if you’re on a budget this is even more ideal.
The common misconception is that you’ll go hungry if you order just a salad or just an appetizer when eating out. This is not true. Many salads are just as filling as full meals, and there are appetizers that you can double.
Opt for water.
Forget about that can of soda or that mango smoothie or that mouthwatering chocolate milkshake. The beverages we order not only make our meals cost more, they also often contain empty calories that will go straight to your waistline.
A good way to prevent yourself from gaining unnecessary calories is to just order water with your meals. Water is refreshing and good for you, and best of all it contains zero calories.
Restaurants vary in serving size. Many entrees are actually good for two (or even more), so a good way to cut back on the calories is to share your meal with someone. This is easy if you’re dining in pairs or as a group, but if you’re dining alone, another way to do it is to ask them to box half of your meal for taking home even before they serve you the rest in a plate. You’ll be surprised at how much weight you end up losing just by cutting down on your portions.
Find the lighter options.
Restaurants know that people are becoming health-conscious, and they’re actually there to support you. When faced with a menu, always look for the lighter options. Sometimes they indicate this with a special icon, but there are also restaurants that have a separate menu section just for this. For instance, Cheesecake Factory has a ‘SkinnyLicious Menu’ with small plates and appetizers that are all under 490 calories. If it’s not as obvious just by reading the menu, don’t be afraid to ask the waiter.
Don’t be afraid to have it your way.
You are the boss of what you eat and how you eat it, so don’t be afraid to ask if you can have things your way. For instance, ask if you can triple the vegetables or replace something fried with something grilled. If a meal combo comes with French fries on the side, ask if you can substitute it with a salad instead.
Skip the dessert.
As tempting as it is to order dessert, try and skip it at least for the time being. If you really must satisfy that sweet tooth, go for the least sinful version. A scoop of gelato or frozen yogurt for instance will be better for you than a Triple chocolate mousse.