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Dine out and stay on track

Embarking on a weight loss journey doesn’t mean you have to bid farewell to dining out at restaurants altogether. With a little knowledge and some strategic planning, you can enjoy meals away from home while staying on track with your goals.

Many of my clients avoid dining out when they embark on a healthy lifestyle journey. They don't see it as part of a healthy life and subsequently deprive themselves of such events. To me, this is very much a diet mentality and a red flag that can derail long-term commitment.

Here are my tips to help you enjoy dining out while maintaining your healthy lifestyle:

1. Never Turn Up Hungry

Eat your usual meals during the day to stabilize your blood sugar levels, putting you in a better position to resist temptations and avoid overeating. Consider adding a nutritious late-afternoon snack to your routine.

2. Practice Portion Control

Consider sharing an entrée with a friend or family member. Many restaurant portions are substantial and can easily be divided. Alternatively, when your meal arrives, immediately set aside a portion to take home. This way, you won’t be tempted to overeat. Sometimes, starters are more reasonably sized and can be a good choice as a main course.

3. Control What You Can

Avoid Fried and Breaded Foods: Fried and breaded dishes tend to be high in unhealthy fats. Opt for grilled, baked, or steamed options instead.

Request Sauces on the Side: Many dishes are smothered in calorie-laden sauces. Requesting sauces on the side allows you to control how much you use.

Ask About Cooking Methods: Inquire about how dishes are prepared. Grilled, roasted, and poached options are usually lower in fats compared to fried or sautéed choices.

4. Focus on the Four Building Blocks of a Healthy Meal

Complex Carbohydrates: Opt for baked potatoes instead of fries, or choose grains like quinoa, bulgur wheat, or legumes instead of refined pastas or noodles.

Lean Proteins: Choose chicken without crumbs or creamy sauces, fish, or lean grilled steak instead of ribs, chops, or fried meats.

Healthy Fats: Be mindful of hidden fats. Where possible, choose grilled or baked foods and avoid meals made with cream, butter, and oil. If possible, ask for any sauces to be served on the side.

Vegetables: Start with a salad or soup to fill up on fiber, which can help curb your appetite. Then add more fiber with your main meal in the form of vegetables or salads to help keep you full.

5. Manage Liquid Calories

Liquid calories can often account for more calories than the food you ordered. Avoid sugary beverages like milkshakes, fizzy drinks, or milky hot drinks like lattes. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation and choose no-sugar or low-calorie mixers. Consider having a coffee for dessert and skip the flavored, creamy alcoholic drinks and cocktails.

The Bottom Line

Dining out should not be the downfall of your healthy lifestyle. Healthy habits and a healthy lifestyle are not made or broken in one meal.

For those committed to losing weight and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, consulting a dietitian can be a game-changer. Dietitians specialize in nutrition and can provide tailored advice to help you make informed choices, not just at home but also when dining out.

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