What to Do When Eating at a Restaurant

Eating at restaurants is part of life. You may eat out with friends to be social, or you may eat at a restaurant for convenience. So, when you are following a special diet program to lose weight, what should you do?

Restaurant food needs careful consideration when you are trying to lose weight. Most restaurants serve food that is very high in calories, so eating it can mean that you eat more than your calorie target to lose weight. That doesn’t mean that eating at a restaurant completely ruins your weight loss progress and efforts. It just means that eating at restaurants can slow your progress down, if you don’t know how to go about it.

The best option for your program would be to avoid restaurants as much as possible during this 16 week program. Don’t worry, you do not need to avoid them for the rest of your life! Instead, think of this as a temporary treatment program where you are changing your behavior for a short time. The more you can stick to the program as written, the better your weight loss results will be.

If restaurants are a necessity for your lifestyle, not to worry, you can still lose weight. The diet program has built in options for restaurant foods that you can take as part of your menu plan. If you know you are going to have a busy week, and you will need to eat out, choose those options. Or, if you know your family or friends will want to go out on the weekend, choose one of those so you have an option to go with them.

If those options are not going to work for any reason, the next best thing is to go to a restaurant that includes calorie labels on their menus. Build your meal so that it has 600 calories or less. If there isn’t an option that is that light in calories, you can choose one that is up to 1200 calories and take half of it for your meal. Just be careful when you do this, because sometimes the calories for the sides and drinks are listed separately. 600 calories is a good target for your entire meal including sides and drinks.

Sometimes you may end up somewhere that doesn’t have calorie labels. If that happens, here are some general tips to follow:
Some good main dish options include grilled chicken or fish, broth-based soups (not creamy), or salads.
Rice or tortillas are fine, but keep track of the quantity you take. Portion sizes are usually larger than needed for weight loss. 2 Tortillas and about ½ to 1 cup rice and beans is fine.
Try not to order anything with a very creamy or cheesy sauce on top.
Be aware of the calories in starters like free bread or chips and salsa. They are not free! One Olive Garden breadstick, for example, has 140 calories in it. Each Tortilla chip is 10-16 calories, so 10 chips will be about 100-160 calories.
Ask for any dressing, guacamole or sour cream on the side. Sour cream and guacamole are about 25 calories per tablespoon, and salad dressing is about 60 calories per tablespoon. So, take as little as you can of those items while still enjoying your food.
Water and diet sodas are the best drink options. Lemonade, regular sodas, beer or wine, and mixed drinks have calories.
Plan ahead. Know where you are going and decide what you’ll eat before you go so that you don’t even need to open the menu and tempt yourself to order something outside of your plan.