Updated: Sep 12
As a nutritionist and personal trainer, I have seen time and time again how eating out at restaurants can sabotage a whole week of dieting in just a couple of hours. I’ve been there more times than I can count. Through helping numerous clients transform their bodies and from personal experience, I have compiled a guide that you can implement to continue losing weight even when eating out and feel empowered along the way.
A Nutritionist’s Guide to Losing Weight While Dining Out
We are human beings - not robots. Despite our best efforts to stick to our diet, we will inevitably go to a restaurant while in a cutting phase. It may be a work event, celebrating a birthday, going on a dinner date - the list goes on and on. When that day comes, it does not mean that your diet is doomed. Or have that overwhelming feeling to press the “F-It Button” and go full-bore due to the lack of diet-friendly options. With the correct tools in your toolbox, dieting does not have to be a daunting process. And the best part: this guide is practical and easy to implement.
Here are a few tips to help you feel empowered to continue your weight loss plan while eating out:
Healthy Eats Before You Feast
Making poor eating decisions often occurs when we feel ravenous. Thus, the most successful dieters diligently plan for when they eat out. They do not starve themselves all day in preparation for a restaurant meal. Instead, they continue to eat healthful meal(s) before going out to avoid temptations, which can sabotage their fat-loss success for the week. When your blood sugar is balanced, research shows that your ability to choose a healthful plate increases. So, opt for eating meals regularly and wisely before your event to take control of your cravings and promote better meal decisions.
The Secret to Serving Size is in the Palm of Your Hand
How embarrassing would it be to take your food scale to a restaurant? Thankfully, you have a measuring tool attached to you: Your Hand.
3oz of meat, fish, or poultry: Palm of hand (no fingers)
1oz of meat or cheese: Thumb (tip to base)
1 cup or 1 medium fruit: Fist
1–2oz of nuts or pretzels: Cupped hand
1 tablespoon: Thumb tip (tip to 1st joint)
1 teaspoon: Fingertip (tip to 1st joint)
Sticking to Your Meal Plan: The Ordering Process
Say that the restaurant does not offer anything healthy on the menu. Or the conventionally healthy food is smothered in butter or high-fat dressing, which is often the case. After all, a restaurant strives to provide mouthwatering food to its customers, meaning that the chef prepares the food with added fat and may increase portion size. But don’t fret: there is hope for you to leave the restaurant without breaking your calorie bank.
Take matters into your own hands by creating your meal. Ask the waiter for grilled or steamed chicken, fish, seafood (or any other lean protein source) with a double portion of steamed veggies. If you feel uncomfortable creating a meal off the menu, try informing the waiter that you have a health condition or allergy; or explain that your nutritionist has you on a specific food plan [for health purposes].
Make substitutions to an existing entree. A salad may seem healthy in theory, but the add-ins and dressing can make it more caloric than a burger. To reduce your calorie consumption, skip the salad dressing and the calorically dense add-ins (think high-fat add-ins, such as bacon, fried chicken, and cheese). If you go for a classic entree, I encourage you to substitute highly caloric sides for vegetables or fruit. Ask for no gravies, heavy sauces, or butter. And choose foods that are either steamed, broiled, baked, roasted, poached, or lightly sauteed/stir-fried. If you order pan-fried white fish with creamed spinach and roasted potatoes, request that the chef grill the fish and substitute the sides for double steamed/grilled veggies without oil or butter.
Trim the visible fat off meat or poultry and remove the skin off chicken and turkey.
Plan ahead. Find out what is on the menu beforehand. When you are ready to order, stick to a goal of eating a single entree with a zero-calorie beverage. Skipping the appetizer, dessert, and cocktail will save you calories and bring you closer to your fitness goal.
Oversized portions are pervasive in our culture. If you know that the portion size is on the larger side (either by viewing the room, prior knowledge, or after asking a staff member), request to have half of your meal packed up to go and enjoy the other half inside the restaurant. Alternatively, ask a friend to share a meal with you.
Say No to the Bead Basket. Even if you do not often reach for the breadbasket, it is best to avoid the temptation by kindly asking the waiter to remove the bread from your table.
Consume at least two glasses of water before your meal arrives to help you gauge your hunger cues accurately.
Rethink your drink. Alcohol can derail your fitness goals regardless of whether you are losing weight, maintaining, or growing, so it is best to avoid alcoholic beverages as much as possible. But if you feel inclined to order a cocktail, opt for a clear spirit and soda, such as vodka soda or tequila soda with lime. If you desire wine or beer, skip the beer and order a wine glass with reduced sugar content (see list below). Lastly, set a goal to limit yourself to 1-2 alcoholic drinks, as the calories can add up. As for non-alcoholic beverages, choose water or diet soda to avoid the consumption of unnecessary calories that will not satiate your hunger.
Low Sugar Wines
Red wines, which have under 1g of sugar per 5oz:
Dry whites, which have 1-1.5g of sugar per 5oz:
Sparkling wines, which have 2g of sugar per 5oz:
It is devastating when you have worked hard to stick to a calorie deficit all week, only to have the weight creep back up when dining out. But there is a way to continue your fat-loss journey when dining at a restaurant. I hope this guide gives you helpful tips and things to avoid so you can reach your weight loss goal. Stay empowered, and don’t give up. You’ve got this!
At The Michaud Method, we understand that dieting is challenging for most people. That is why we have perfected our system to help our clients stay on track with their fitness journey - whether your goals are fat loss, muscle gain, or weight maintenance. Our clients work one-on-one with a certified personal trainer and nutritionist, and have daily access to their coach via text, email, and phone. We also offer meal planning recommendations while dining out, all to ensure that our clients feel supported and get outstanding results. Click here to learn more
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