Tips for Healthy Dining Out


The weekend is here and many of you are going to be dining out!

Some of you may even be like me – in the process of losing weight. So the thought of going out to eat and screwing up all the hard work you put in during the week can cause more than a little anxiety.

But we have to live, right? If we go through life trying to avoid every circumstance and food while we are losing weight, how do we face it once the weight is gone? Instead, let’s try to make smart choices now. Life is about the journey, not the destination.

Soooo… We’ve all heard that we should order our salad dressing on the side, put down our forks between bites, blah blah blah….

So the point of this post is not to reiterate those tips… (You can find a bunch of them anywhere online, particularly in this great article on the Eat Better America site.) Instead, I’ll share with you my experiences with them and what I’ve discovered works for me. If you are working on your own healthiness, you need to experiment and decide what works for you.

Here is What I’ve Experienced:

Online Menus: Checking the menu online is always the first thing I do! It’s not only to search for healthy options, but also just fun to do. Just ask Rob. I read menus to him. And he sits there. Quietly. As if he can’t read them himself… But really, how did we manage before this? Did we actually wait to look at menus upon arrival and not talk with one another for several minutes before ordering? Or did we find the first thing on the menu that sounded okay and ordered that just to avoid the silence?

Budgeting: I’ve heard all the tips about eating before going out so that you aren’t tempted to order something heavy or overeat while at a restaurant or event. For me, this doesn’t work. Instead, I need to plan for my nights out. No matter what, I always eat more calories out than I expect. So now, I plan for it. While I don’t starve or deprive myself during the day, I do really watch what I eat to compensate. It’s these days that I’ll have a Fiber One Brownie for breakfast with coffee and a nice big spinach salad for lunch and some fruit or nuts for a snack.

Temptations: I don’t quite know why, but this isn’t a problem for me anymore. Instead, I have a bigger problem if I can’t find something healthy on the menu! My guess is that because we go out to eat often, I don’t feel like I’m deprived. Also, after you’ve been at this awhile, you start to crave the foods you are eating. I’m craving tomatoes now… and scallops, not nachos or fries. Besides, if Rob decides to order fries, I can have a couple and be satisfied. For some reason, if they were on my plate, I’d feel like I’d need to eat most of them. However, if they are not my plate, they are not mine to take. Interesting.

Salad Dressing: Of course, we all know dressing is best on the side. Most places just serve it that way now. But ask anyway. Or try this trick: ask for a couple lemon or lime slices. Most restaurants with a bar will have them already. You can squeeze a bit on your salad to give it a bit of wetness with virtually no calories.

Fish or Seafood: This is a big deal for me. I look to see if there are some good chicken or seafood dishes on the menu, since I don’t make a lot of those at home.

Bread: If this is a tough thing for you, just ask that they don’t bring it. Or, practice. Just have one piece. If you can’t do it the first time, you aren’t ready.

Portions: We all know that restaurant portions are atrocious. There are several tips/tricks/ways of looking at this.

  • Ask that half your meal be wrapped up before they bring it. I’ve never done this. For me, the visual experience is almost as important as the taste. Yet, I want to try it sometime.
  • Order an appetizer as your meal instead of before it, like I did here.
  • Share a meal. My friend Jen and I do this often when just the two of us go out. Who cares about a split plate charge? Actually, I’d rather pay more for my meal for them to force me to eat less. Besides, I believe the restaurant shouldn’t have to suffer with a smaller bill.
  • Quality over Quantity. I’d rather pay the same price and get a small portion over getting a big mound of something that will make me feel guilty.
  • Get over wasting food. Yes, there are starving people around the world. You eating everything on your over-sized restaurant plate will NOT change that. Donate to a hunger cause instead.

Still, some nights you can’t control where you end up dining. So when all else fails – Improvise. Take a look at the menu and ask questions to *really* get what you want – even if it’s not on the menu. Jen, a priorfatgirl, did that at TGIFridays. Similarly, remember that when you are invited out, it’s not always about the food, but to enjoy the company and celebrate.

Always remember, practice makes permanent. So each time you are out to eat, think of it as “live practice” for the next time. Always reflect back and decide what you can change going forward. No one is perfect, but there is always room for improvement.