How to Eat Out and Still Lose Weight
Sometimes, after a busy day of rushing around, grabbing food from a restaurant is the only way the family is going to get fed! And other times, going out for a meal can be a fun social time with friends.
But, going out to eat does not mean it's time to cave into cravings and blow your healthy living plan completely.
Eating out can be a part of a healthy diet, it just may take a little bit of strategizing and planning ahead.
1. Begin by looking up the menu online before even going to the restaurant.
Or look up the menu of several restaurants in your area ahead of time, so you can be prepared for any temptation that might arise. If you go in with a plan, you are less likely to be swayed by temptations. Also, try not to arrive overly hungry because then everything looks good!
2. Drink a big glass of water before looking at the menu.
Water will fill up your stomach, temporarily curbing your hunger, so that you can make a better decision when ordering.
3. Check out the entre section of the menu first.
Have an entre instead of a main course. An entre is usually a smaller portion, which will help keep calories under control. But, don’t give in to the temptation of the deep fried appetizers!
4. Look for vegetable or protein-based dishes that are not fried or drenched in heavy sauces.
Carbs are the main danger when dining in restaurants. Look for meals where it is easy to separate out the carbs. Steak, salad and chips isn’t a bad option as you can easily just avoid the chips. It’s harder to separate out the carbs in mixed dishes like lasagne.
5. Consider starting your dinner with a small salad or a broth-based soup.
Fill up on salad or soup before your meal as it will make you feel full which will help you eat less overall.
6. Ask for the dressing on the side
Restaurants tend to overdo it on the salad dressings,
This can add a lot of unnecessary calories to your meal. You can either dip each bite of the salad into the dressing as you eat or you can add a small amount of dressing on your own.
7. Skip the bread, chips, or anything brought to the table before your meal.
Once the bread hits the table, it is difficult to avoid eating it, especially if you are hungry. If the bread is unlimited, then you can really be in trouble and consume a heap of calories before your meal even arrives. Ask the server to not put the bread on the table at all so you can avoid temptation.
8. As you are scanning the menu, look for healthy words such as "steamed", "grilled", or "sautéed".
Avoid words like "crumbed", "fried", "crispy", or "creamed". If you are not sure how something is prepared - ask! Sometimes dishes show up fried or with a high calorie sauce you weren’t expecting, so ask to avoid any surprises.
9. Avoid high calorie side dishes such as potatoes, pastas, or bread.
These are cheap for restaurants to serve so they make the portions huge. Instead, load up on veggies and ask for a double portion instead of the carbs. Once your meal arrives, try eating the vegetables first, so you get full on the healthy stuff first.
10. Be careful of liquid calories.
Skip the high calorie soft drinks or juices, which sometimes come with free refills as these calories add up quickly! Alcohol should be avoided, especially before ordering your meal, as alcohol can lower your inhibitions leading you to order less than ideal items! Instead, ask for water or another calorie-free beverages such as tea.
11. Consider sharing your meal with someone else.
Portion sizes are usually much larger than they should be.
Or ask for a takeaway container with your meal and separate half to take home before you even start eating. This will automatically cut your intake in half!
12. Reduce Your Calories for the rest of the day
Lastly, be aware that regardless of how prepared you are at restaurants, you can never be 100% sure of what exact ingredients are in the food.
Throughout the day, eat smaller portions and look for lower calorie options to reduce your overall calorie consumption. The easiest way to do this is to replace 1 or 2 of your other meals during the day with an In Shape Mummy Health Shake for Busy Mums or Breastfeeding Mums.
This will help to reduce your overall calories for the day so you can enjoy your dining out guilt free!
With just a little bit of planning you can still enjoy dining out knowing you're still on track for your health goals.
Julie Masci, BHlthSc, APD, AN
Julie Masci is an Accredited Practising Dietitians and Nutritionist. She is a mum of 3 young children. Julie has appeared on Brisbane’s televisions as an expert dietitian on Channel 9 News, Channel 7 News, Today Tonight and Brisbane Extra, as a diet and nutrition expert. She has extensive experience as a public speaker on a variety of nutrition topics, such as obesity, diabetes, and digestive health. In her career, she has been a monthly contributor to Prevention Magazine as their Grocery Guru and Australian Weight Watchers magazine.
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