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5 tips for diet-friendly dining out

Avoid Restaurants, Eat Home-Cooked Meals

According to the National Restaurant Association almost half of all adults eat a sit down or carry out restaurant meal every day.  It’s not surprising. Who doesn’t like the convenience and taste of freshly made food to order?  But for frequent diners there is a potential downside: quick and steady weight gain.

When researchers at the University of Toronto checked the menus at 19 popular chain restaurants they found that an average meal now tops 1,100 calories - more than half the 2,000- calorie per-day total recommended for most adults. Go out and eat a pretty standard restaurant lunch and you’ve got about 900 calories left for everything else - breakfast, dinner, a snack, beverages, and one dessert.  Exceeding that by just 500 calories each day can easily translate into a pound of weight gain each week.

Swearing off restaurants isn’t the answer.  Ordering well is and here’s how:  

Be the first to order

Head off temptation and order a healthy appetizer before your dining partner can say “let’s share the fried calamari!”  

Fill up on low calorie choices

Keep your garden salad light by asking for dressing served on the side.  Kick the bread and butter habit and go for a steamy, filling cup of broth-based vegetable soup instead.

Look for healthy cues on the menu

Entrees described as grilled, broiled, steamed, or roasted are apt to be much lower in calories and fat than anything pan-seared or fried.   Keep your meal light by skipping starchy potatoes or rice and opt for a double order of steamed vegetables.

Split and save

Share a delicious appetizer and entree with a friend and you’ll feel satisfied on half the calories. A typical pasta entrée packs about 1,000 calories, but you can cut that to about 300 calories by ordering yours as they do in Italy – “primo piatto”… or small first course.  

Savor dessert in three bites

Studies show that people rate the first and last bites as best. Enjoy even the most decadent dessert guilt-free by savoring it in three slow, delicious bites - first, middle and last.

For more tips, delicious high fiber meal plans, recipes, and proven ways to lose weight and look great, check out my new book The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber!

Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a registered dietitian in New York City and the bestselling author of The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with fiber, and The F-Factor Diet: Discover the Secret to Permanent Weight Loss.  Follow Tanya on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and visit her website Ffactor.com