How to Eat Less at Any Restaurant

Lose weight faster with healthy dining strategies

eat less in restaurants
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How often do you eat out in restaurants? If you are a typical American, you do it quite often. According to FDA statistics, Americans eat one third of their total calories away from home. For most of us, that means eating in a restaurant.

So what's the problem with dining out? There really isn't one if you are at a healthy weight. But for dieters, it can be a minefield of temptation. We often think of eating out as a special occasion and when that happens, our good diet habits go out the window.

But it is possible to curb your calories when you eat in a restaurant and yet still enjoy the experience.  Use these tips and strategies to make your dining event both healthy and enjoyable.

6 Ways to Eat Less in a Restaurant

  1. Choose your dinner date wisely.  Believe it or not, your dining companion may play a role in the food choices you make during your meal. When you eat with family and friends that overindulge, researchers have found that you are likely to overindulge as well.  So make smart decisions about the people that share your table.  If an overeating friend asks you out for dinner, suggest a different type of activity such as a walk, a coffee date or a diet -friendly happy hour.
  2. Exercise before you go. You'll feel better about your body if you exercise before you go out to eat.  Some studies have shown that this can help you make better food choices.  Be careful, however, to avoid starving yourself prior to your special meal. You don't want to arrive at the restaurant famished. Have a healthy post-exercise snack before your night out so you feel comfortable eating a moderate meal at the restaurant.
  1. Wear a fitted waistband. This sounds like an odd tip, but it works. Avoid baggy or loose clothing and wear a dress or slacks with a fitted waist. That way if you eat too much, the discomfort from your midsection will remind you to stop. There are companies that sell weight loss bands that provide this same benefit, but you can do it with simple wardrobe items that you already own.
  1. Check the menu online. New guidelines by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will make checking the calorie counts of menu items easier in some restaurants. But the rules only apply to chain restaurants that have 20 or more locations. So it's still possible that you'll have to navigate the menu without the help of nutritional guidance. So look at the menu online before you go to the restaurant and find entree choices that are based around a lean protein. Look for items that are broiled, grilled or roasted. Try to avoid foods that are breaded or fried. Consider ordering an appetizer as your entree to keep portion sizes in control and don't even allow the waiter to put bread on the table. It's just an invitation to overeat.
  2. Seat yourself by a window. Believe it or not, dining by a window may help you eat less. In his book Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life researcher Brian Wansink says that when diners eat in a dark booth, near a television or at a bar they are more likely to eat more calories.  When they sit near a window, they are more likely to order a salad.  Of course, there is no guarantee that you'll make better choices by a window, but there is not harm in sitting there and the distractions outside might prevent you from mindlessly overeating.
  1. Choose wine or dessert.  If you are the type of person who starts their dinner order with a wine or cocktail request, then this tip is for you. Decide in advance if you will enjoy wine or dessert with your dinner, but don't have both.  The calories in wine add up quickly because most wine glasses are bigger than a standard serving size. In addition, there is no nutritional value to the calories in alcohol.  So to keep your meal healthy, choose just one indulgence, but not both.

Remember, if you are serious about changing your eating habits and losing weight, then you need to be mindful of all of your food choices - both in and out of the home.

  But that doesn't mean you can't enjoy life's special moments.  Make your own plan to eat less in restaurants, so that you can continue to enjoy your social life and relax while you slim down


Bleich, Sara N. et al. Calorie Changes in Chain Restaurant Menu Items. American Journal of Preventive Medicine October 07, 2014.

U.S Food and Drug Administration. FDA finalizes menu and vending machine calorie labeling rules. November 25, 2014

Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D.. Providing Consumers More Information with Menu and Vending Labeling FDA Voice November 25, 2014.

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