Dieting While Dining Out – How To Eat Clean at Restaurants


From birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving and even Independence Day, our yearly calendar is full of events that need celebrating and more often than not we choose to get together with our friends and family at a restaurant to enjoy a meal. There’s no cooking required, nobody has to clean up and you get a free reign of the menu.

But have you ever thought about what impact these endless meals out are having upon your health? In the comfort of your own kitchen, you are able to control what goes into your food. In a restaurant, you simply don’t have this luxury or control. Even diet friendly foods such as salads can be extremely calorie dense! Romano’s Macaroni Grill Chicken Florentine Salad packs a punch at 1,020 calories which is half the recommended daily intake for a grown woman!

So how can you continue to enjoy celebrating occasions in style, while making sure you are eating healthy while dining out? This article should shed some light on how to control your calorie intake when visiting a restaurant.

  • outback-salmonPass on the free bread or chips that come before your meal. If you’re hungry when you get to the restaurant, you’ll often absent-mindedly eat the free bread and fill up on calories before you’ve even ordered. This leads to even more calories mainly coming from starchy carbohydrates.
  • If you’re going for the full three courses, try to order something light for your starter such as a broth based soup or a side salad. Look for keywords in the salad description and avoid items that contain heavy dressings, bacon, cheese and croutons. Choose a lighter dressing like balsamic vinaigrette and ask your waiter to put it on the side.
  • An alcoholic beverage with your meal may come highly recommended but we often forget how these liquid calories quickly add up. Be aware that our favorite cocktails often contain large amounts of sugar and can be rather high calorie. A Pina Colada will set you back at over 200 calories. Opt instead for red wine, light beer (Michelob Ultra, Bud Select) or a mixed drink like vodka with diet tonic or a rum with diet coke.
  • It may be tempting to order fries with your main course, but even if there’s no alternative offered on the menu, see if the chef will swap the fried potatoes for something lighter, like a portion of vegetables.
  • Drink lots of water. We often mistake thirst for hunger, so if you make sure you’re well hydrated, you’ll know when your stomach has had enough.
  • If you’re having dessert, opt for a fruit dish. Fruit salads often give you the sugar-kick you want, but these contain natural rather than processed sugars and much less calories than a traditional sugar-laden dessert offered at most restaurants.
  • Doggie bag it up. Take a box home if you’ve had enough. There’s no point trying to force your way through a portion you can’t finish. Plus, it will mean tomorrow’s lunch or dinner is all ready for you to dig into!
  • Have it your way. You’re paying a lot of money to eat out at a restaurant so the chef should cater to your needs. If you want your chicken grilled and not fried, or your potatoes mashed and not deep-fried, go ahead and ask for it. Most restaurants want to cater to your needs so just ask your waiter to make your food “dry” with no butter and request to have all of the sauces on the side. This tip will literally save you hundreds of calories each time you eat out!

If you follow these simple steps, there’s no reason not to eat healthy when you’re dining out. The good news is that more and more restaurants are aware of the importance of healthy living, and they are now offering lower calorie options on their menus.

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