Monday, March 29, 2010

Eating Out With Less Calories

I must admit that my husband and I love eating at restaurants. As much as I love to cook, I also enjoy eating food that someone else cooked. It is great to just relax in a restaurant with a nice atmosphere and chitchat about whatever comes up. Plus, I just enjoy trying different cuisine and having time away from the kitchen at home. However, as we all know, eating out can often be detrimental to healthy eating. So what should you do if you love to eat out? Here are some helpful hints!

1. Skip the appetizer and watch that breadbasket. Appetizers are rarely healthy and can really pack on the calories. Have the server only bring enough bread for each person at the table.

2. Look for the words “grilled, baked, or broiled”. Avoid foods that are fried.

3. Share your meal or plan to take half home. If you plan to take half home, go ahead and ask for a box when you order or receive your meal. Place half of your meal in the box before beginning to eat so that the temptation to pick at your food past your full mark is removed.

4. Consider subbing vegetables for French fries. It may be hard to order it, but chances are, with some good seasoning, you’ll be fine with your vegetables when they arrive. This will save you a lot of calories and add plenty of nutrients to your meal.

5. Ask that butter be left off of your food. Restaurants put butter on everything! I know because I was a waitress while in college so I saw this first hand. One of the restaurants where I worked poured butter on every steak. You need to ask about this and then request that it is left off. If your steak shows up “glistening”, send it back and ask them to try again. You are the customer and you’re paying a pretty penny, so don’t feel bad about doing this if you asked up front and they did not comply. Remember to ask that butter be left off of your vegetables. If you feel like you really need something on them other than seasonings, ask for olive oil instead of butter.

6. Be mindful about what you’re drinking. With free refills, you may end up drinking several glasses of regular coke or sweet tea. These calories add up fast! Stick with calorie-free drinks. If you are choosing alcohol, try a light beer or dry wine and limit yourself to one.

7. Watch the sauce! Creamy and buttery sauces can make any grilled, healthy sounding meal a saturated fat nightmare! Two ways to handle this are, 1. order it without the sauce, or 2. order the sauce on the side and drizzle it. I feel confident that you won’t feel cheated if you drizzle a small amount on your food. You’ll have the taste with several hundred less calories.

8. Ask for whole grain whenever possible. Many restaurants are now offering whole grain breads, pasta, and rice. Take advantage of this whenever possible.

9. Ask a lot of questions and don’t be shy! You’ll never know everything that went into the dish you’re about to eat. However, you can be as proactive as possible. You’ll never know if butter comes on your food if you don’t ask. If you are wondering...just ask!

10. If you are eating out several times each week, consider swapping out at least one of these meals for something you made at home. Eating out is fun and enjoyable; however, the more often you do it, the more hidden fat and calories you will be eating!


  1. Thanks Erin. We don't eat out super often, but I know lots of people do. Even when we do go out to eat, I worry that I will find a couple of extra pounds on the scale the next morning so these suggestions are very helpful.

  2. Not to mention the issue of cholesterol levels after too many fat laden meals....

  3. I used to be (and sometimes still am) pretty bad about splitting my meal, especially if it is some sort of sandwich. I have found that when eating out at Travinia's, the meal I typically order is way too big. Fortunately, it is conveniently separated into 4 portions so it is easy for me to say I will put 2 aside to take home.

  4. It's painfully sobering, but sometimes just looking at the nutritional information on the restaurant's website can also help you order more sensibly.

  5. Erin'sMom: It sounds like you are already very aware of the issues with restaurant food! It is good to enjoy it on occasion, but you do have to be very careful.
    Matt: It is great that you have a go-to meal that you know you are good with portion control!
    Busy-Dad-E: Once again, thanks for bringing up a great point! It is VERY helpful to look at nutritional information before leaving your office or house. Go ahead and decide what you will order before you get there. It is much easier to make a good choice when you made your decision before arriving at a restaurant, famished!

  6. Yeah, I have an ap on my ipod with nutrition information from a bunch of restaurants. It made me scared to eat out!

  7. Statmom: I hear you! Its nice to indulge sometimes, but we have to make informed decisions and do the best we can!