Restaurant Survival: 7 Ways to Stay on Track When Dining Out


When on a diet, you inevitably have to give up a lot of your favorite indulgences. No more secret stashes of ice cream in your freezer, no more Friday night pizza binges and definitely no more eating until you feel like you’re going to explode. While you will have to make a lot of sad sacrifices, giving up your social life shouldn’t be one of them.

We all have that “weight conscious” friend who will literally think of any excuse in the book to skip out on an outing that involves ordering from a restaurant menu. It’s like she has a fear of dining out or something. And when she actually works up enough courage to come out, she usually ends up ordering nothing but a diet coke, claiming she’s not hungry, yet spends the whole night picking and nibbling off of everyone else’s plates.

By the end of the night, you probably wish she hadn’t bothered to come. Now I don’t mean to be harsh – I get that restaurants can be quite intimidating for someone watching her waistline, but eating out doesn’t have to be scary. Here are 7 ways to navigate your way through the dining out process and make sure you don’t derail your diet.

1. Sides Matter
I know it may be hard to side step the french fries, but you can substitute greasy sides for a salad at just about any restaurant on the planet. If that seems boring to you, have a look at the list of sides on the menu. Just because the waiter doesn’t mention it in the choices, doesn’t mean you can’t make the swap.

2. Doggy bags are your new best friend
This is by far my favorite, and most effective, diet tip. Before you even get your meal, ask you waiter to put half of it in a doggy bag. Don’t worry about still being hungry. Restaurant portions are huge, so chances are that you could easily split the whole plate with two other people and still be satisfied. It’s all about portion control.

3. Don’t be afraid to “have it your way”
FYI Burger King isn’t the only place that let’s you have it your way. It’s ok to be a little demanding about how you want your food prepared at a restaurant. Ask for light dressing on your salad, no cheese on your sandwich or that your order be grilled instead of pan fried. It’s amazing how many calories you can save with little tweaks.

4. Skip the bread basket
The bread basket is my ultimate downfall when dining out. I could devour the whole thing without any help from the table. But I don’t have to tell you how bad of an idea this is. It’s mindless eating and should be avoided at all costs. If you can’t just take one piece of bread and move on, then don’t even ask for a basket at all. The same goes for the chips and salsa at a Mexican restaurant.

5. Get hydrated
Make sure you have a couple glasses of water before you even start your meal. The water will take up space in your stomach and curb your appetite. We often mistake thirst for hunger, so if you stay hydrated, then you lower your risk of overeating.

6. Don’t dine on an empty stomach
It’s so easy to skip meals when you know you’re going out to dinner that night. But doing so is actually more harmful than helpful. It’s actually better to eat something small, like a piece of fruit, an hour or so before your meal so that you avoid stuffing yourself at dinner.

7. Look out for menu “trap” words
Breaded, tempura, smothered, creamy and loaded are just some of the dangerous words we see lurking on menu item descriptions. They are just another way of saying fatty, fried food. Avoid at all cost!