33 Strategies For Eating Out Without Worrying About Calories

Dining out without gaining weight
[Note: This is a slightly edited version of Mission 29: Enjoy Eating Out.]

Now that you’re seriously on a healthier path, you’re going to have to make some sacrifices. For instance: No more eating out.

Just kidding!

Of course you can have a healthy weight-loss goal and also a fun life – one that includes eating out!

You simply need to have a few tricks up your sleeve for navigating the menu, the ordering process and the dessert cart.

In this mission we’ll set you up to enjoy eating out while staying true to your weight-loss goal. And I’ll share some of my favorite strategies for planning ahead and ordering strategically.

Plan Ahead

If you’ll be eating out, here are 8 strategies for planning ahead so you can enjoy yourself while making goal-friendly choices.

  1. If you’re not confident about choosing well on the spot, then call the restaurant in advance. Explain that you’re looking for options that are lower in calories, and ask for advice on what to choose. There’s no need to apologize, over-explain, or feel intimidated.
  2. Do this regularly and over time you’ll learn how to order with confidence. You’ll recognize choices that are goal-friendly, while also satisfying your taste buds and your sense of having a nice time out.
  3. If you have a say in the choice of restaurant, steer clear of buffets and all-you-can eat places. In these restaurants, the path of least resistance tends to be the plate of most food.
  4. Once you find a restaurant that offers goal-friendly choices or is happy to cater to your preferences, reward them with more of your business. When you dine out with friends, suggest your goal-friendly places.
  5. Look up restaurant menus online so you can plan your choices beforehand.
  6. Remember Mission 13: Splurge Strategically, and be prepared to make sacrifices wherever they don’t much matter to you. If you could take it or leave it – bread, dessert, sauces, dressings, alcohol – then leave it. Enjoy what you truly enjoy.
  7. Eat lighter earlier in the day if you know you’ll be dining out later. But
  8. Don’t dine out ravenous – extreme hunger will trounce good intentions every time. Take the edge off your hunger with a goal-friendly snack before you head out. Good pre-eating-out choices include chicken or turkey breast slices, low-fat yoghurt, or an apple and a few almonds.

Hint: Plan ahead for holidays and conferences too

If you’ll be staying away from home, call the hotel in advance to suss out your goal-friendly options. Get advice about lower-calorie choices in their restaurants, room service, and local eateries.

Key Tip: Write Off The Cost

As we talked about in Mission 14: Stop Overeating, it’s a mistake to eat more than you want in order to get your money’s worth.

If you’ve had enough and your plate is still half-full, that’s fine. You’ve enjoyed the companyambiance, and chance to go out and have fun. That’s what you paid for – and hasn’t it been money well spent? The actual food is the least of what you’ve paid for, so only eat what you want and forget about the rest.

 It’s far more of a waste to store it on your body than in the restaurant bin.

Order Strategically

The secret to ordering strategically is to make the easy sacrifices, not the hard ones.

Depriving yourself of something you really want can be counter-productive and lead to bingeing later. So unless you eat out all the time, make it an occasion and enjoy.

If you do eat out often, then you’ll need to be stricter most of the time, and more relaxed only on special occasions.

Here are some suggestions for ordering strategically:

  1. Start smart. Good starter options include salads (dressing on the side – just take what you need) and non-creamy vegetable soups.
  2. Skip the bread – usually it’s not a great loss compared to other things on offer, so it’s an easy sacrifice.
  3. Ask wait staff not to bring bread, or ask them to remove it if it’s already there, or move it to other side of table if someone else wants it.
  4. If you could take or leave alcohol, then leave it. Sip mineral water or soda with lime.
  5. If you want to drink, alternate alcoholic drinks with water.
  6. Keep water on the table and drink it liberally.
  7. Choose lean meats, poultry, game, or seafood. Avoid fatty cuts, and fatty meats like duck.
  8. Look for lower-fat cooking methods like grilling and roasting. Avoid anything battered and/or deep-fried.
  9. Avoid dishes with creamy or cheesy sauces.
  10. If you choose pasta, opt for a tomato-based rather than cream-based sauce. If possible, there should be plenty of vegetables and some protein such as chicken or seafood, and not just a huge pile of pasta.
  11. If you crave a very goal-unfriendly dish, ask for a smaller size.
  12. Ask for substitutions. Call ahead, remember. 🙂
  13. Ask for salad or vegetables instead of fries.
  14. Or order a side of vegetables – ideally steamed, but as long as they’re not dripping in butter I think they’re a good choice almost any way you can get them. (Remember all the weight-loss benefits we talked about in Mission 27: Eat More Vegetables And Legumes?)
  15. Ask for sauces and dressings on the side, and add just what you need. Restaurant dishes can often be over-flavored, so you might enjoy a better taste experience, too.
  16. Get totally comfortable with leaving food on your plate. As we talked about in in Mission 14: Stop Overeating, you’ve got your money’s worth.
  17. I’m not a doggie-bag kinda gal, but if you’d like the leftovers, go ahead and ask. It’s better than finishing a meal when you’ve had enough.
  18. If savory is your treat, then thoroughly enjoy it and skip dessert.
  19. If you feel like something sweet at the end of the meal, consider a hot chocolate or mocha – either of which can hit that sweet spot for a lot less calories than a dessert.
  20. Or have a coffee with a single chocolate.
  21. Or share a dessert – ask the wait staff to halve it and bring it out on two plates.
  22. Or ask for some fresh fruit. But…
  23. If dessert is your thing and you’re making it your strategic splurge, then be sure to savor every bite.
  24. Park a little way from the restaurant, so you can have a walk after dinner. Or simply go for a walk after dinner. Not advisable if you’re wearing uber-high heels, though. 🙂

Complete Mission 29

Step 1: Plan Ahead

  1. Commit to a habit of planning ahead when you know you’ll be eating out.
  2. Review the examples above for ways to plan ahead – so you can enjoy the experience while still remaining goal-friendly.
  3. If you like, write about the habit of planning ahead in your 52 Weight Loss Missions Workbook.

Step 2: Order Strategically

  1. Commit to a habit of ordering strategically when you eat out.
  2. Review the examples above for ways to order strategically, and choose the suggestions you’ll apply.
  3. If you like, write about the way you’ll order strategically in your 52 Weight Loss Missions Workbook.

Step 3: Check In

  1. Collect your badge – you’ve earned it!
  2. Leave a comment to say you’ve completed this mission and share any resources, ideas or challenges.
Michele Connolly

Michele Connolly helps people move from procrastination to action. She believes that taking action on your priorities makes you a happier person. Michele is the founder of Get Organized Wizard and creator of tools for business, home, and personal organization. Her programs are used by tens of thousands of people worldwide.

5 thoughts on “33 Strategies For Eating Out Without Worrying About Calories

  1. Samia Ahmed says:

    Thanks, Michele. I like your tips a lot. I will try to choose my restaurant according to my diet plan. I always eat lighter before going to any restaurant. I am going to try your tricks and tips and share my experience.

  2. Brendan Shelton says:

    I like that you said that you should consider looking at the menu before you head to the restaurant so you have a general idea of what to order beforehand. I have a family reunion coming up and we plan on eating out a few times during the week and it will save so much time to hand out to the menu before we even get there. I will certainly remember these tips while we plan the reunion.

  3. Ethan Hansen says:

    I found it interesting how you mentioned how you can take a walk after dinner in order to burn more calories and lose weight. My wife and I are going on vacation soon and we want to take the time we have now to get our bodies in peak shape before we go. We’ll be sure to find a restaurant near us that has easy access to a walking trail nearby so we can start working on this goal!

  4. Tim Yaotome says:

    Since you mentioned that one way to eat without worrying about the calories is to thoroughly enjoy a savory meal without having dessert, I believe that one can eat at a burger restaurant. They may be unhealthy, however, it can be like a once-a-month treat for working off the extra pounds. Thanks for the awesome tips on enjoying eating out while maintaining a healthy lifestyle at the same time.

  5. Taylor Bishop says:

    Thanks for these tips for going out to eat. I didn’t know it could be good to try to eat lighter in the day if you know you are going to be dining out. Maybe it could also be good to know where you will be dining out in case that effects how much you will eat beforehand.

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