Eating in Restaurants

One of the most common situations I hear from patients is they don’t cook and have to eat out at restaurants most of the time, often in fast food facilities. They blame this for their weight problems. As someone who eats out at least three days a week, I have to tell you this is not the case. Follow these rules with restaurants and you will not gain weight:

  • Choose only restaurants that have a “full menu” and a real kitchen. This means that “grills” are not acceptable. You can read most menus online. Make sure they have “green” alternatives like substituting a salad or side of vegetables for potatoes or rice.
  • Don’t eat the prison food! Every restaurant wants to put something in front of you while they take their time to assign staff and fill your order. What you usually receive is a loaf of bread and water. You can have the water but just not the bread! Immediately upon sitting down tell them to spare the bread and instead ask for a small dinner salad with the dressing on the side. Most restaurants have these made up in advance and can accommodate you quickly. This will give them the time they need and will give you something to eat right away. It’s a win-win.
  • Try eating an appetizer as your main meal. Everything is bigger today and the size of an appetizer is just about equal to what a full meal was years ago. As long as the appetizer is prepared healthy, it’s a good idea to eat this as a meal. Unfortunately, many appetizers are quickly prepared fried foods so be careful with what you choose. You can make healthy foods unhealthy by frying them.
  • Don’t hesitate to share an entrée with others dining with you. Each of you can have a salad and then share an entrée. You will both feel full without consuming as many calories. It works. The few dollars a restaurant may charge as a sharing fee is minimal considering you’re only ordering a single entrée.
  • Ask your server if they offer half-portions.
  • Stay away from the alcohol. You don’t need the extra calories from that glass of wine or beer. Remember, one glass leads to two and along with that comes the poor food decisions that alcohol can precipitate.
  • Skip the potatoes and ask for extra vegetables. Potatoes and vegetables are fairly similar in cost to the restaurant, and they usually do not care which one you want. Tell them to skip the potatoes and give you more vegetables. You don’t need the carbohydrates from the potatoes or fat from the toppings/method of preparation if you are trying to lose weight.
  • Remember there are calories in sauces and dressings. Don’t hesitate to ask them to put these on the side so you can control how much you use.
  • Dessert is not necessary but a nice thing to have. Choose a piece of fruit instead. It takes time for some of us to reach the full feeling (satiety). Resist the dessert-urge. It will go away by the time you get home.