How can I eat less at restaurants?

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Natalie Castro-Romero, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
Keep in mind the following rules of thumb when dining out:
  • Eat out only occasionally. Make dining out a social event that takes place only once in a while. And remember: grabbing lunch to go from an eatery is also eating out. Most likely, your homemade lunch will have fewer calories and better nutrition than one from a restaurant.
  • Develop a plan before dining out. Will you have an appetizer, a glass of wine or dessert? Having all three, even with a healthy meal, may mean a thousand extra calories or more. If you choose to have a high-calorie, high-fat meal, curtail your eating for the remainder of the day.
  • Stay away from sweet drinks. The average soda at a restaurant provides an extra 300 calories, and that’s before the free refill. Avoid those extra calories and choose water instead.
  • Choose a side house salad as your appetizer. The greens will lessen your appetite (but remember to always order dressing on the side).
  • Share meals. Order one meal and an appetizer to share and one dessert for the table.
  • Use any posting of calorie information to help you make informed and educated food choices -- something that we need to do more of, more often.
Marjorie Nolan Cohn
Nutrition & Dietetics

Restaurants are notorious for serving over-sized portions, it’s true but, it doesn’t mean you have to over eat. If you are one of the million who have a head time simply eating less of the meal you order, maybe because you can’t stop yourself from finishing your plate. There are a few other things you can do to ensure you don’t overeat at restaurants without the difficult process of stopping yourself when you are face-to-face with your double bacon cheese burger.

  • Order from the appetizer menu. Many restaurants serve appetizer that are meal size. Take advantage, and order yourself an ‘entrée’ from the appetizer section of the menu.
  • Opt out of the extras. If you have the choice to add fries for a $1.50 or dessert comes with your entrée, say NO. It is easier to say no before it is on your plate. AND just don’t eat the bread from the breadbasket – once you start it’s too hard to stop, so just save yourself the pain and don’t do it.
  • Share, share, share. Share a salad, entrée and even dessert. Chances are you will still be eating less than if you only had your own entrée.
  • Plan ahead. Most restaurants have the menu posted on a website, look at the menu, and decide what looks appetizing and healthy. Then you won’t have to look at the menu, if you avoid the temptation you will avoid the extra calories.
Restaurants tend to provide large servings. To avoid eating too many calories, sodium, fat, or cholesterol in one meal, consider the following tactics:
  • Drink water (unless you’re on a fluid-restricted diet). Sipping water throughout the meal can help you avoid overeating or drinking too much alcohol.
  • Beware the breadbasket. After selecting one piece of bread, ask that the breadbasket be removed (or move it to the other side of the table). Ask for olive oil instead of butter.
  • Ask that your food be prepared without added salt.
  • Split a meal with a friend.
  • Reconsider dessert. There are a lot of ways you can still enjoy an end-of-meal treat -- without too much fat, sugar, or calories. You can share a dessert with a friend or two, enjoy a hot beverage, or order fresh fruit as a dessert.
  • Take food home. Once you’ve eaten an appropriate portion, stop eating. Take leftover food home to enjoy later or share with someone else.

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Dieting For Weight Loss

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ncreasing your physical activity, you can lose about one to two pounds of fat per week. Dietitians recommend a daily minimum of 1,200 calories per day (a 200-pound person might need 1,400 calories). Anything less makes you lose muscle as well as fat, which slows your metabolism. Instead, minimize your intake of starches, added sugars like high fructose corn syrup and animal fat from dairy and meats. Focus on eating fruits and vegetables, soy products, egg whites, skinless poultry breasts, shellfish and fish, nonfat dairy foods and meat that is 95 percent lean. Drink lots of water, don't skip meals, and eat only from a plate while seated at a table.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.