One of the biggest challenges faced by many of my clients who are working-out to lose or manage their weight, is what to choose when they eat out at a restaurant. This might be the best time to have a cheat meal, when you eat whatever you want (within reason) and don’t feel guilty about it. However, if you eat out often, or if you don’t want to cheat, here are some effective weight-loss strategies for staying in control and making better choices while eating out.
If your meal portion is larger than normal, ask your server for a second plate. Remove half of the food from your plate to leave enough for a normal sized meal. Have your server immediately remove the second plate and ask to have him or her put it in a take-away box (now have another meal for left-overs!).
Order lots of water and drink it while looking over the menu. Filling up on water will reduce the amount of food (and potentially alcohol) you consume.
Order a broth-based soup (skip the cream or chowder-type soups). The soup will fill you up (like the water example above) and will keep your appetite in check before the rest of the meal arrives.
Ask the server not to bring bread and butter. If you’re trying to loose or control your weight, this is one of the last things you want to eat.Skip the appetizer and instead choose a healthy, balanced main course. If you do choose an appetizer, a mixed-greens type salad is a healthy choice but ask for an oil and vinegar dressing on the side so you can portion out about a tablespoon of dressing.
Ask the server for double the vegetables and hold the pasta or rice. Also asked that the vegetables be either steamed or cooked with olive oil instead of butter.
If you are going to eat rice, ask for brown instead white rice. And if you really want to control the portion, ask to have ½ to 1 cup of rice, or for the rice to be brought in a ramekin, thus reducing how much will get ladled onto your plate.
Have more vegetables instead of the potato. Have a potato instead of French fries. Ask for a side of olive oil to drizzle over the potato and sprinkle with salt and pepper. You may be surprised how good this tastes.
If you are having a stir-fry, ask that your food be cooked with olive oil instead of butter.
Order your meat grilled or dry-roasted. This will reduce the natural fat content of the meat (the fat will drip away from the meat in cooking).
At the beginning of your meal request that your server not ask if you would like a desert.
Skip the alcohol (these are your nutrient-empty calories that do not contribute to feeling full). Or drink less by ordering a glass of wine (not a whole bottle) or a single glass of beer, but ask to have it brought with or just before your meal. This simple strategy will reduce how much you drink before eating, reducing the possibility of ordering a second drink – the longer you sit, the more likely you are to order a second drink.
Know the restaurant: is the service slow? Does it take a long time for the food to be prepared or does it come out of the kitchen quickly? If you are already hungry go to the faster-service restaurant. Otherwise eat a small, healthy snack before your meal (this could be 6-12 almonds and a fruit, etc.). This will control your appetite and help to reduce the possibility of over-eating at the restaurant.
Tell your meal companion that you are managing your weight before you go out to eat. They may be more sympathetic to choosing a healthier restaurant.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask your server to make changes to your order. You’re the customer and you’re paying for the meal. When done politely and graciously, most restaurants are willing to keep their customers happy.
Eat well to be well!