We all love eating out but, trying to navigate weight loss and restaurants can be daunting. Have no fear, these tips will show you how to cut calories when eating out, without sacrificing flavor. Have fun, enjoy meals out, and remember…weight loss is about consistent small steps and not perfection. You can eat out and eat low calorie, it just requires some forethought. So call a friend, make a reservation, and get ready to enjoy dinner out.
One thing I teach in The Weigh 2 Hope is the power of words when we’ve decided to make healthy lifestyle changes. A big part of low-calorie eating is what you choose to focus on and research shows your success could hinge on whether your thoughts and words are focused on what you “can” or “can’t” eat.
So while you’re reading these tips think about the food you CAN eat and all of the low-calorie foods you’ll be able to choose at restaurants.
Table of Contents
Eating Out & Cutting Calories
1. Choose the Right Restaurant.
Choosing the right restaurant is the first step in ensuring you’ll find low-calorie food when you go out. But…
Some of the common chain restaurants even offer healthier, lower-calorie menus.
2. Go Upscale.
If budget isn’t a concern, choose a higher-end restaurant in your area. These restaurants tend to make it easier to find low-calorie food because they offer smaller portions, healthier options, and a chef who’s used to tweaking things for patrons.
3. Go Ethnic.
Most ethnic restaurants make low calorie eating pretty easy. Japanese, Thai, Indian, Greek, and Mexican all offer plenty of low-calorie options. Plus, they usually have a lot of vegetables and when you’re cutting calories and eating out, veggies are your friend.
4. Make Reservations.
Having reservations means you won’t be left waiting for a table, watching tantalizing plates pass by while your stomach’s growling. It also means you’ll know where you’re going and what time you’ll be eating so you can plan the rest of your meals accordingly.
5. Music & Colors Matter.
Restaurants with loud, upbeat music or bright colors encourage you to order more food and eat faster. After all, restaurants are about profit and not your calorie goals.
6. Don’t Go Hungry.
No, I’m not talking about leaving a restaurant hungry because you’ve deprived yourself. I’m talking about making sure you’re not hungry when you head to the restaurant. If you get to the restaurant and realize you’re famished, order a broth-based soup or small side salad, in place of a high-calorie appetizer or the ever tempting bread basket (if this is a temptation for you, ask them to leave it in the kitchen).
7. Investigate First.
Once you know what restaurant you’re going to, pull up the menu, and look for low-calorie options you’ll enjoy and be excited to eat. When you’re learning how to cut calories at restaurants put these next 4 steps in place.
7a. Look at the menu.
Do they offer any healthy, low-calorie meals? If not, look at each of the items on the menu and look for anything you’d consider healthy and low-calorie. (vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, beans, fruit) Then create a low-calorie meal out of those items. Don’t be afraid to mix and match things that are part of other menu items.
They spend all day making the exact same dishes, so go to the restaurant and ask the chef to make you a healthy, low-calorie meal with x,y, & z ingredients.
Just be certain to give the chef guidelines for the amount of fat and salt you’d like them to use and make them aware of any other restrictions you may have.
7b. Watch the Words.
Scan the menu and look for keywords such as: fried, pan-fried, crispy, dipped, scalloped, breaded, creamy, buttery, stuffed, smothered, alfredo, gratin, parmesan, and sauteed. These are all clues to a meal that’ll be full of calories.
Instead, look for words like grilled, steamed, baked, roasted, braised, broiled, seared, or stir-fried. These foods are usually the lower-calorie options at most restaurants.
7c. Request Sides.
Syrups, sauces, dressings, and butter should always be requested “on the side.” These things are full of sugar, calories, salt, and unhealthy oils so it’s important you’re the one controlling just how much of these items you’re eating.
7d. Make Appetizers Your Main.
Many restaurants offer seafood or vegetable-based appetizer options that make a great lower-calorie dinner option. Depending on the size of the appetizers, you could also order an appetizer along with a couple of veggie sides or order two appetizers.
8. Salads Aren’t Always the Answer.
Most people think ordering a salad means they’re getting a low-calorie meal but…it’s seldom so my friend.
When you know what foods you’ve chosen to eat you’ll recognize items you “don’t” eat when looking at the salads ingredients. But…you also have to ask, and the next 3 tips will show you how.
9. Ask, Ask, Ask.
Chefs are trained to use a lot of oil and salt to prepare meals because they’re cheap and heighten the food’s flavor. Because of this, you need to ask how the food you’re ordering is prepared so you’ll know what changes to request.
Not asking could mean hundreds of unneeded calories.
It’s your responsibility to know what you’re fueling the temple of God with, and it’s the waitstaff’s responsibility to know what’s in the food they’re serving you. You can’t cut calories at restaurants unless you’re willing to ask.
10. What Can You Add?
Since you’re focusing on what you “can” eat, scour the menu for those things. Your “can’s” are the nourishing foods you’ve chosen to eat. Even though you’re cutting calories you still need a little fun, flavor, healthy fats, colorful veggies, and good for you proteins.
When looking for things to add, look for whole grains, beans, vegetables and proteins you’ve either never tried before or that are prepared in ways that are new to you. Who knows what new favorite you’ll go home with…
11. Ask for Extra Veggies.
At most restaurants, vegetable sides are barely a garnish so do your body a favor, and ask for 2-3 x’s the veggies. You can also scan other menu items to see what other vegetables are offered. But, unless you’re following a keto diet, ask them to steam or stir-fry your veggies with only a tsp of oil. You can even ask your server to exchange a portion of your meal for veggies. After all…
12. Don’t Drink It.
Drinks are one of the easiest ways to consume a ton of calories without realizing it. Since you’ve already made a reservation, decide if you’re wanting to have a drink at the restaurant and then, plan your meal accordingly. Sometimes it’s a-okay to enjoy a calorie-laden drink; unless you won’t regret it later, don’t deprive yourself.
The Key is “won’t regret later.”
Otherwise, click here for a list of low-calorie drinks you can enjoy without regret.
Eating Low Calorie at Restaurants
13. Box It Up.
We all know restaurant servings are big enough for 3+ meals so, ask your server to bring a to-go box with your meal. Then, before you take your first bite, box up all but what you know you should eat.
Not sure how much you should eat?
Box up ⅔ of the meal and then slowly eat the remaining ⅓. Still hungry after you’ve finished that and a big glass of water? Sure you’re not antsy, bored, or emotional?
Then, open your box and put a little more on your plate.
14. Start Low.
Eating the lower calorie parts of your meal first will help fill you up and lessen the likelihood of overeating. Just remember…
15. Fiber First.
Researchers have found that people eat less when they start their meal with fiber. So, when you’re choosing what to eat, look for ways to start your meal with fiber. Appetizers, soups, and side dishes with vegetables and beans will help you put fiber-rich, lower-calorie foods first.
16. Set It Down.
Setting your fork or spoon down between bites will give you a chance to talk with people and help you remember to drink water. But above all, it’ll give your brain and stomach time to communicate and prevent you from overeating.
17. Eat Slow.
This applies to every meal but it’s especially important when you’re at a restaurant and cutting calories. God created your brain and stomach to communicate hunger and fullness but…they like to take their time, about 20 minutes to be more exact.
Fast eaters tend to be overeaters because they don’t give their stomach time to communicate with their brain.
So remember the three “S”s.
Slower = Satisfied = Slimmer
The slower you eat, the more satisfied you’ll be, and the slimmer you’ll get.
18. Don’t Forget Water.
It’s easy to forget that 60+% of your body is made of water but remember it. Your beautiful body needs water and…it helps prevent overeating. Drinking water during mealtime is a great way to cut calories at restaurants. It’s great even when you’re eating at home or the office.
Some Calorie Cutting Extras
19. Work It In.
Why not incorporate some physical activity into your meal out? Purposefully pick a restaurant 10-15 minutes from your house or work then, invite whoever you’re meeting to walk with you. Another option is to park 10-15 minutes away from the restaurant and enjoy a brisk social walk to dinner.
Bonus: That brisk walk back to your car will help digest your food while also burning some calories. Win-Win!!
20. Beware of Catch Words.
Just because something is listed as being gluten-free or having organic ingredients, doesn’t mean it’s healthy or low calorie. Those phrases have become trendy and only tell you the item contains organic ingredients or doesn’t contain gluten.
21. Don’t Beat Yourself Up.
No matter what you choose to eat or how much you end up eating, don’t beat yourself up.
Did you enjoy what you ate and the company you were with? If not, do something different the next time.
Did overeating leave you feeling bloated and miserable? Remind yourself of this and eat less next time.
Learn and grow, don’t beat yourself up.
Remember, choosing to eat fewer calories should be about eating the right amount for your body and perfection is not required.
22. Desserts Aren’t Off Limits.
Just because you’re choosing a low-calorie meal doesn’t mean you‘ve gotta skip dessert. Just plan for it and consider asking for a child-sized portion, sharing with 2-3 others, having sorbet, boxing most of it up, or enjoying a simple bowl of fruit
23. Remember Why.
Before heading out to eat, remember why you’ve chosen to eat fewer calories. If needed, remind yourself again while you’re at the restaurant. But above all…
Are you ready to call some friends, make a restaurant reservation, and pull the menu up to explore what you’ll get to eat? I hope so because it’s possible to choose low-calorie meals at restaurants and the best part…
Do you have any favorite tips for eating out and choosing low calories meals?
Bless another lady and leave them in the comments below.
Until next time remember…
”So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31