Eating out and losing weight

Eat Out at Any Restaurant and Still Lose Weight Fast

You’re presented with a menu of multiple choices, most of them are wrong, and if you don’t figure it all out, a bad score is certain to mess up your future. The monitor (er, waiter) can’t help you, and you can’t even cheat because the questions change all the time.

But what you can do is get these six questions right every single time. They may seem like simple queries, but in most cases, there’s a hidden agenda—and a secret opportunity to put the kibosh on extra calories and accelerate your weight loss. Consider this your restaurant CliffsNotes.

TRICK QUESTION #1: “HAVE YOU BEEN HERE BEFORE?”

Quick Answer: “We eat here all the time”

A study in the International Food Research Journal found that people are less likely to make healthy restaurant choices when they feel that they’re dining out for a special occasion. That makes sense, except…we also tend to view dining out anywhere, at any time, as a “special occasion.” Yet nowadays, between takeout, delivery and dining out, the average American eats restaurant food for one out of every three meals.

Before you head out for your meal, take stock of how many times you’ve eaten out this week. If a trip to a restaurant truly is a once-a-week splurge, then don’t worry about it so much. But if you’re like most of us, eating out is probably more like a once-a-day splurge. Eat smart today because you’ll have to do it again tomorrow.

TRICK QUESTIONS #2: “RUSSIAN, FRENCH, RANCH OR HOUSE?”

Quick Answer: “Oil and vinegar on the side.”

It sounds like a weenie move, ordering the dressing on the side, as though you’re trying to micromanage the kitchen from your booth. But the stats don’t lie. A house salad at Applebee’s is 230 calories. If they dump the blue cheese dressing on it, it’s suddenly 470 calories, or about what you’d get by ordering their 12 oz New York strip. (And the salad has 40 grams of fat, versus just 25 for the steak.) But a light dose of oil and vinegar keeps this meal under 300 calories. A swap like this daily will save you close to 18 pounds a year!

TRICK QUESTION #3: “BREAD OR ROLLS?”

Quick Answer: “Shrimp cocktail.”

Consider this: The number-one source of calories in the American diet isn’t burgers, cookies, or even beer. It’s bread. It’s all around us—wrapping our sandwiches, sitting alongside our eggs, resting in a little basket at our dinner table. And for the most part, bread is a nutrition- free source of straight-up sugar calories. A slice of Italian bread has 80 to 100 calories; a plain dinner roll will average 87 calories.

Why do restaurants want us to eat the bread? Because bread gives us a sugar rush, followed by a sugar crash, so we’re primed for dessert at the end of our meal. The simple solution is to pass on the breadbasket altogether, but damn, you’re hungry. If you can, order a shrimp cocktail. Five juicy shrimp dipped in sauce clock in at only 100 calories and more than 12 grams of belly-filling protein, and can be at your table in minutes

TRICK QUESTION #4: “AND FOR YOUR ENTRéE…?”

Quick Answer: “That is my entrée.”

Order your whole meal off the appetizer menu. Or hell, order your entrée off the kids’ menu— who cares that you’re over age 9? You’re allowed to order as much, or as little, as you want, so take advantage of that fact, says New York dietitian Keri Gans, R.D. “That’s the whole reason for portion control,” she says. “It’s not that the pasta’s so terrible for you, it’s just the size of the plate.” In fact, you should consider every restaurant meal “pre-super sized.” Over the last two decades, restaurants have grown our portions all out of proportion. Just take a look at the chart below.

TRICK QUESTION #5: “HOT WOULD YOU LIKE THAT COOKED?”

Quick Answer: “With flame.”

Ha! A trick answer for a trick question. In most restaurants, “grilled” foods are cooked on a grill plate—it’s little more than a giant, flat sauté pan, where grease gathers to dance around and have a party. “Grills” at restaurants lock fat in, instead of cooking it off. Flame-grilling means putting the meat or vegetables over an open flame. At this point, your waiter may scratch his head and shuffle off in a sort of “Hope I get the part in the soap opera and can quit this gig” kind of way, only to return and say there’s no actual grill in the kitchen. In that case, ask for it to be broiled, using the broiler that’s located, yep, under the griddle. Either way, “flame-cooked” makes an enormous difference; a study in Meat Science (yeah, we’re subscribers) found that grilling a pork chop could actually decrease its fat content by a third.

TRICK QUESTION #6: “WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE A DESSERT MENU?”

Quick Answer: “Do you have any berries?”

Even if the restaurant only lists gooey, chocolaty, decadent desserts on its menu, chances are there are some blueberries and strawberries—two of the best fruits for fat loss—floating around in the kitchen. Ask for a bowl topped with a generous scoop of whipped cream for a decadent off-the-menu dessert. One cup of mixed berries topped with 3 tablespoons of whipped cream has only about 117 calories, compared with 492 in a piece of tiramisu and 411 in a slice of apple pie. Or keep it simple and just order a bowl of ice cream. Four ounces of vanilla ice cream has about 145 calories, while chocolate clocks in at 130. In an ideal world, of course, you won’t order dessert. But ideal worlds are boring.

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I Didn’t Eat Anything from A Restaurant for 5 Weeks and This Is What Happened

2017 has been an exciting year of travel for me. I’ve been to Tulum, Mexico City, Todos Santos, Barcelona, and June marked my first ever trip to Italy. While never unpacking your suitcase offers it’s own off-the-rails kind of fun, it tends to go hand-in-hand with never buying groceries, overspending, and forgetting that the concept of working out even exists. The more I traveled, the more eating out became my default mode (even when I was at home). By the time July rolled around, I had favored and room serviced my way to a 10 pound weight gain — and I won’t even mention the state of my bank account.

Clearly something needed to be done, but I’ve never identified as someone who “cooks.” I’d often wondered what would happen if I just stopped “eating out” for a while. Would I automatically lose weight? Save money? No longer have a social life? On July 17th I looked at my calendar and saw that I didn’t have a single dinner date (or big trip) on the books for the foreseeable future and decided to strike while the iron was hot. I pledged myself to five weeks of “eating in” — nothing from a restaurant of any sort for 35 days. The experience that followed was nothing short of revolutionary for me. Read on to discover what happened:

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1. I lost weight.

While I made a conscious effort to not buy junk food groceries, the simple decision to eat more meals at home led me to shed pounds naturally. I wasn’t mindlessly snacking on tortilla chips and bread before each meal like I tend to do in restaurants, and was also eating cleaner, lighter meals. I also got back in to going to spin class, so by the end of my 5 weeks had lost about 8 pounds. Score!

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2. I saved hundreds of dollars.

Eating 5 weeks’ worth of meals at home made me realize just how much I was really spending on dining out. And it’s not just the big, fancy Friday night dinners. All those $10-$15 lunch runs to my favorite sandwich and taco shops really add up, too. By the end of my five week pledge, I estimated that I saved somewhere between $300 and $400.

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3. My social life actually got a lot more interesting.

So this is where the unexpected results of my experiment begin. I’d often lamented that our entire social system revolves around eating together, so being on any sort of diet puts you in direct conflict with your own social life. Entering into this project, I had basically resigned myself to becoming a complete hermit for five weeks. Fortunately for me, my prediction couldn’t have been more off. I started off by announcing my 5 week pledge on social media, in hopes that sharing my intentions with friends would make me more accountable. It turned out that people were way into the idea — everyone was cheering me on and supporting me online and in real life. Instead of leaving me out of dinner plans, my friends got creative about fun things we could do together besides going to restaurants. By the end of the 5 weeks, I had gone bowling, seen a live play, had a picnic in the park, watched a backyard movie with a projector, and hosted people to grill out by my pool. I even took homemade soup to a sick friend and cooked a new mom dinner.

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4. I (finally!) started to truly enjoy cooking.

I grew up in a “fast food house” in the 80s, and it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks. All my life I’ve approached food from a perspective of convenience and laziness. My past attempts at getting into cooking were always short-lived. I would try out a few recipes and feel so overwhelmed with the process (the grocery store, the chopping, google-ing phrases like “simmer”, the massive clean up afterwards) that I would give up after a few tries. The cool thing about my 5 week challenge is that it forced me to stick with it. And just like working out or learning a new language, it quickly became a lot more fun once I started getting better at it. I’d say it took about three weeks before I really began enjoying my time in the kitchen, which leads me to my next discovery…

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5. I found my “rhythm” with meal planning and grocery shopping.

As I mentioned before, past attempts at cooking left me feeling overwhelmed and often wasteful — I’d have all these random ingredients leftover in the fridge that I didn’t know what to do with. (It’s also worth mentioning that cooking for one presents it’s own unique challenge, as almost all recipes and grocery store items are designed for 2-4 people.) Through trial and error, I finally found my rhythm with buying groceries: I’d buy one protein at a time (like a steak, salmon filet, or block of tofu) and figure out a way to “accessorize” it with different sides for three different meals. So I might have salmon and roasted veggies one night, salmon with rice the next night, and salmon and grapefruit salad for lunch one day that week.

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6. I discovered some amazing recipes that I’m excited to make again and again.

My new favorite hobby is browsing pinterest for recipes, and over my 5 weeks I found some real winners that I know I’ll be making again and again in the future. Here are a few of my favorite finds:

Camille’s magical turmeric soup I took to a sick friend.

The sheet-pan shrimp boil I served friends by my pool. (SO GOOD!)

This grilled steak with baby arugula and parmesan salad.

Chanel’s salmon and broccolini for one (seriously so easy and so darn good.)

This detox salad with salmon and grapefruit.

Thank you to all the friends who supported me through this journey! Couldn’t have done it without you.

The 10 golden rules for dining out on a diet

Heading out for dinner with friends and fear you’ll fall off the wagon? Keep both your weight loss goals and social life intact with our guide to making healthy food choices that won’t leave you feeling left out

Losing weight needn’t mean losing our social life. It also shouldn’t mean ending up with a serious case of food envy at the sight of our diet-less friends’ sauce-drenched, cream and butter-dripping meals approaching our table from the restaurant kitchen (anyone else getting hungry?).

A tricky business, eating out can throw all sorts of temptation for falling off (and sometimes, willingly leaping off) the heathy eating wagon, however the diet needn’t go out the window when a catch up with friends, a date or a birthday dinner goes into the diary. It all comes down to making satisfying yet strategic menu choices that keep us feeling fuller for longer, while also suitably appeasing our tastebuds at the same time.

We asked nutritional therapist and Get The Gloss Expert Zoe Stirling for her guide for side-stepping the pitfalls in our menus like a culinary pro. From smart starters to the not-so-healthy ‘healthy’ options to watch out for, her advice acts as appetising food for thought for keeping both our Project Me plans and social lives intact.

1. Become a mezze sensei

When it comes to a clean and lean starter platter that delivers on taste too, the mantra ‘sharing is caring’ couldn’t be more apt. “If you’re at a pub with a mezze style starter with cured meats, smoked salmon and hummus/tzatziki for example then this is a great sharing choice; it’s simple and cleaner and you know what you’re going to get,” says Zoe. “You can also share it rather than feeling like you have to finish every morsel on your plate before the main event arrives!

“If a mezze isn’t an option, then try ordering some grilled prawns as an alternative as they’ll be full of protein to start filling you up so you don’t overload on mains and desserts. Alternatively, don’t be shy to ask for something from the ‘sides’ menu – green salads or corn on the cobs tend to be safe bets; you can even ask for dressing on the side,” she adds.

2. Select your soup carefully

A common misconception is that soup is the better option when it comes to starters. However, it’s worth taking a closer look before placing your final order. “Although soups are thought to be a healthier choice, be aware that most pub soups come from tins and they tend to have a lot of added salt, sugar and cream for example, so they’re not as healthy as you think,” Zoe warns.

3. Look at the way your food has been cooked

Although on paper it may seem that the main you’ve chosen is the more nutritious option, there’s little point ordering it if it arrives dripping in oil. Make sure to enquire how it’s been prepared to avoid a nasty surprise. “Avoid menu options that have been fried, deep fried or sautéed as these will inevitably come back drenched in oil, making them high in trans fats,” cautions Zoe.

MORE GLOSS: 10 reasons you’re not losing belly fat

4. Opt for lean meats

“Leaner proteins such as chicken or fish tend to be a better option on the whole,” recommends Zoe. “Again though, ask how they’re cooked – baked or grilled will be your better options,” she adds.

5. Implement a chip swap

If your meal feels somewhat incomplete without a serving of carbs, switch up your go-to portion of chips for an equally filling alternative. “Rather than chips, opt for a jacket potato as this is baked rather than deep fried and you’ll still get your carb/potato hit,” suggests Zoe. “However, ask for butter (or even olive oil) on the side so you can add that on yourself. Always make sure you have a vegetable option on your plate too and even order a side salad to help you fill up on the good stuff, i.e. greens!”

6. Mix up your dessert

“Unfortunately there probably isn’t a healthy pub dessert,” says Zoe, “However, my advice is always to do the best you can in the situation you’re in. Most pubs will have ice-cream as an option so opt for this rather than cakes, crumbles or pastries. Although it will still be high in sugar, you will be avoiding gluten and high fat desserts that tend to be higher in calories too. If sorbet is on the menu, then even better.”

For extra points, add a sweet but sharp extra. “To add an antioxidant hit to your meal, then you could always ask for fruit alongside your ice cream,” Zoe recommends.

MORE GLOSS: Is your workout sabotaging your weight loss goals?

7. Order a low calorie alcoholic drink

When it comes to empty calories, there are few nemeses as tantalizing as alcohol. So what are the most waistline-friendly alternatives? “Vodka, soda and lots of fresh lime tends to be a low calorie favourite, although sometimes I think this is just because it doesn’t taste that great so we end up just drinking less!

“Dilute white wine or rose down with sparkling water to make a spritzer and avoid cocktails and even mocktails as they’ll inevitably be made with lots of sugar. Beer also causes a lot of bloating as it contains yeast, so for anyone with any digestive issues, this is an absolute no,” says Zoe.

“As an extra piece of advice, always make sure you eat when you drink booze to slow down the release of alcohol and the sugar in alcohol into the bloodstream,” she adds. This has the added bonus of keeping any forthcoming hangovers as pain-free as possible, which we think we can all agree can only be a good thing…

8. Keep non-alcoholic drinks simple

Should you be on designated driver duty, shun sugar-fuelled mocktails for something a lot simpler by giving fruit juices a healthy twist. “For the non-drinkers, you may want to try mixing orange juice with sparkling water to dilute the sugars down,” says Zoe.

9. Don’t always believe the low calorie farce

Lower calorie options aren’t always the healthier alternatives. It’s better to look at the meal as a whole, its composition and how it may influence your food choices later on in the night and even the next day. “Don’t always look at the calorie count as something may be low in calories but made of the wrong balance of macronutrients,” explains Zoe. “For example, you’d be much better off having a grilled chicken with chips, rather than just chips on their own as the protein in the chicken will keep you fuller for longer so you’re less likely to crave more food or sugar so soon.”

MORE GLOSS: 5 ways to overcome emotional eating for good

10. Don’t be afraid to speak up!

Finally, regardless of what’s on the menu, the biggest obstacle standing in the way of our healthy eating plans is ourselves. As cheesy as it sounds, our fear of making a scene, being perceived as difficult or being labelled a ‘fussy eater’ often prevents us from really enjoying a meal and ordering what we really want. As Zoe points out, “Remember you don’t have to order exactly what’s on the menu, most places are happy to make substitutions, i.e. chips for a jacket potato. Get your dressings on the side so you can add them yourself and be mindful of when you’re full by eating slowly.”

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How to Eat Healthy While Dining Out

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Going out to dinner tonight? You’ve got plenty of company. Almost 75 percent of us eat at a restaurant at least once a week, and 25 percent dine out every two or three days, according to a study by the USDA.

And, hey, why not? Letting someone else cook is relaxing—the perfect treat after a busy day.

Trouble is, portion sizes have ballooned in recent years—and most of us tend to polish off every bite. Research by Brian Wansink, Ph.D., author of Mindless Eating, shows that we keep nibbling until our plates are empty rather than waiting for our bodies to signal that we’re full, no matter how big the serving size. So even if you’re eating a low-calorie restaurant meal, you may be eating way too much of it.

Relishing in a well-prepared restaurant meal is one of the greatest pleasures in life. By heeding these strategies when dining out on a diet in your favorite restaurants, you can savor Chinese, Mexican, Thai, Italian, and American eateries without saying ciao to lasagna or hasta luego to tostadas.

10 Expert Tips for Dining Out on a Diet

  1. Ditch the starve-yourself-all-day routine. You’ve booked a big dinner, so you skip lunch. Sound familiar? Don’t. By the time you arrive at the restaurant you’re famished, and hello, here’s the bread basket! Two or three pieces later (with butter, of course), you’ve eaten a couple hundred calories—and you haven’t even spoken to the waiter. Instead, dig into a light lunch, such as a salad with salmon and veggies and a whole-grain roll. Then in the late afternoon, have a small snack—a container of Greek yogurt or a handful of nuts (try these 10 healthy nuts and seeds). Keeping your hunger under control means you won’t dive into the bread basket the moment you’re shown to your table.
  2. Go easy on the wine. If you want a glass of pinot noir, by all means, have it. Just don’t go overboard. One study found that women who indulged in more than two drinks a day consumed nearly 30 percent more calories (because that second glass of cab tastes better with a slice of chocolate cake, right?). Stick to one glass of wine—which is what the American Medical Association advises as best for your health. (Related: How to Pick a Low-Carb Wine)
  3. Beware of dishes labeled “light.” More and more low-calorie restaurant meals are being highlighted on menus—and we love that!—but unfortunately, the claim isn’t always true. Read the menu carefully. Look for a balance of lean protein (fish, chicken breast, pork tenderloin, strip steak), complex carbohydrates (brown rice, whole wheat pasta) and monounsaturated fats (canola or olive oil). If you want more information to help you choose the healthiest meals, go to the restaurant’s website ahead of time to see if they list nutritional information for each dish.
  4. Practice portion control. Eat three-quarters of what’s on your plate and then stop when dining out on a diet. According to James Hill, Ph.D., director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado, this one simple step can easily shave up to 300 calories off your meal. What’s more, you’ll be so satisfied from eating 75 percent of your dinner that you’ll barely miss those extra few bites.
  5. Be smart about salad. At the salad bar, fill your plate with veggies, greens, chickpeas, and edamame, and top it with one or two tablespoons of low-fat dressing. Limit the bacon bits, cheese, croutons, and creamy dressings. Ditto for pasta, tuna, or chicken salads swimming in mayo. Stick to a quarter-cup serving or less. (Related: The Least Healthy Salads at Your Favorite Lunch Spots)
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask. Restaurants will honor all kinds of special requests—all you have to do is speak up. Order your food grilled, baked, broiled, poached, or steamed instead of fried. Ask for dishes to be cooked with a little olive oil instead of butter. Request extra veggies—and less pasta—in your pasta primavera.
  7. Pick the best protein. Gotta have a steak? A 10-ounce rib-eye can pack 780 calories or more. Seek out leaner cuts of beef, such as tenderloin, flank steak, or strip when dining out on a diet. The recommended serving size is approximately 5 ounces (about the size of the palm of your hand). If the restaurant doesn’t offer one that small, cut your portion in half and take the rest home. (Then use that extra meat in these Steak, Polenta, and Avocado Bowls!)
  8. Get more for less. So many people get stuck on the notion that they have to eat an entree. Says who? Order two appetizers instead and you’ll sample twice the food but eat less overall. Or have one appetizer and share a main course with a friend.
  9. Make healthy swaps. Choose whole grains such as brown rice or whole-grain bread over refined white bread and rice. Pass up the French fries and the cheese-stuffed potato and order two vegetables, steamed, or a salad and vegetables. Instead of creamy pasta dishes, opt for those with tomato sauces, which are generally lower in fat and calories. (Related: We’re *Obsessed* With These 10 Healthy Fast Casual Restaurants)
  10. Eat dessert. We’re not kidding. Try to deny yourself the chocolate souffle and you just might chow down on something worse (like an entire carton of ice cream) when you get home. The smart dining out on a diet strategy: Order one dessert for the table. A few bites should satisfy your sweet tooth. Not in the mood to share? Ask for a low-calorie dessert of berries or a small fruit sorbet.

What to Eat (and What to Avoid) When You’re Dining Out on a Diet

Try these low-calorie restaurant meals and healthy choices at every type of restaurant.

Fast food

  • Choose: Grilled chicken or fish (ask for the sauce separately and use just one tablespoon) with a green salad (dressing on the side)
  • Not: Deep-fried foods. Make these 3 craving-busting fast-food recipes at home instead

Mexican

  • Choose: Fajitas made with grilled meats and vegetables, burritos or enchiladas filled with chicken, shrimp, or lean meat and a small amount of cheese
  • Not: Dishes smothered with cheese, fried chimichangas, refried beans, large bowls of tortilla chips (a few with salsa is fine, #balance), pitchers of margaritas (stick to one glass)

Japanese

  • Choose: Sushi made with shrimp, tuna, tofu, or vegetables, sashimi, miso soup, teppanyaki dishes (meat, fish, or vegetables cooked on an iron griddle)
  • Not: Tempura, large platters of sushi rolls (each can be 250 calories or more, and you can easily eat two or three), teriyaki (the sauce can contain a lot of sugar)

Chinese

  • Choose: Stir-fried shrimp, chicken and vegetables, steamed brown rice
  • Not: Dishes with thick sweet-and-sour sauces like Kung Pao chicken, large bowls of rice, fried egg rolls, lo mein, breaded or deep-fried foods such as orange beef

Indian

  • Choose: Tandoori chicken or other foods cooked in a tandoor oven; look for “tikka” or “bhuna” dishes, which aren’t covered with heavy sauces (or DIY these 8 Easy Indian Food Recipes)
  • Not: Dishes that come with creamy sauces, naan (Indian breads that are often stuffed with potatoes or coconut and topped with butter), deep-fried samosas

Italian

  • Choose: Vegetable or seafood antipasto, minestrone soup, fish or chicken dishes served with vegetables, grilled meats
  • Not: Deep-fried and breaded foods such as veal or eggplant parmesan, creamy sauces such as fettuccine Alfredo, dishes stuffed with cheese such as manicotti and calzones

Coffee Shop

  • Choose: An 8-ounce coffee with milk; 11 calories
  • Not: A 20-ounce latte; 340 calories (Related: Healthy Coffee Drinks That Only Taste Indulgent)
  • By Linda Gassenheimer

We love our restaurants. According to the National Restaurant Association, Americans eat about 24 percent — almost one quarter — of their meals away from home.

Restaurant food is meant to look, smell and taste great, and that means nutrition can sometimes fall by the wayside when menus feature main dishes drenched in butter or rich sauces, salads with creamy dressings, and few whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Try these strategies for enjoying a meal out while sticking to a healthy eating plan.

1. Sleuth It Out

These days, you can find healthful foods almost everywhere. The trick is to know what you’re getting into before you get to the restaurant and are tempted by enticing menu descriptions. Many restaurants have their menus online — some with nutrition information readily available. You’ll be able to choose the destination with the healthiest options, and go into the eatery ready to order the best meal and ask for substitutions where necessary.

Before you head out, make a plan:

  • Eat a light dinner if you ate a big lunch that day. Or, if you know ahead of time that you’re going to a restaurant, plan to have lighter meals during the day.
  • Make a commitment to eat slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message from your stomach that you are no longer hungry. Fast eaters often are overeaters, while slow eaters tend to eat less and are still satisfied.
  • Make physical activity part of dining out. All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes. Pick a restaurant that’s a 10- or 15-minute walk. You’ll get your meal, 30 minutes of physical activity and avoid the parking hassles. Or, get moving as a group before or after eating. A brisk walk before a meal gives you time to chat. A stroll afterward helps your digestion.

2. Don’t Split Your Plate

You’ve probably read advice to ask for half portions or share your meal with a friend. But given the huge portion sizes doled out at some restaurants, half may still be too much. Practice visualizing what your plate would look like at home and trying to replicate that in your restaurant meal.

And, be deliberate when ordering. Balance your meal by including healthier selections from all the different food groups such as lean protein foods, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Look for freshly made entrée salads that give you “balance in a bowl.” For example, entrée salads with baked or grilled chicken, beans or seafood provide protein along with fiber and other nutrients. Ask for dressing on the side so you can control the portion size.

For sandwich toppings, go with veggie options including lettuce, tomato, avocado and onion; if using condiments, choose ketchup, mustard, relish or salsa.

Round out your meal by ordering healthy side dishes, such as a side salad, baked potato or fruit. Boost the nutritional value of your baked potato by topping it with vegetables, salsa or chili.

3. Add to Your Meal

Think eating healthfully is all about what you can’t eat? Focus on what healthy items you can add to your plate instead of only what foods to avoid. Look for whole-grain breads, pastas and sides; opt for foods with healthy fats such as olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds; be sure to order lots of fruits and veggies; and go for lean meat, turkey, chicken or fish.

4. Don’t Go Overly Hungry

You sit down starving, and before you know it you’ve scarfed down several pieces of buttered bread before your main meal arrives. If you’re ravenous before you leave for the restaurant, nosh on a small snack such as a piece of fruit. Or, at the restaurant, order a cup of broth-based soup or small salad to stave off hunger.

5. Watch for the Wording

6. Ask, Ask, Ask

Don’t be afraid to ask your server to help you healthy-up your meal. For example, you could ask for a salad in place of the usual fries or chips with a meal. You can also ask for items to be prepared with less oil or cheese, ask the server to take away the bread basket and serve salad with dressing on the side, and request an appetizer portion of a main meal.

You can even often order “off-menu” — for example, ask what vegetarian dish the chef can prepare for you or if it’s possible to make grilled chicken and steamed vegetables. Many restaurants are happy to comply.

If you enjoy dining out, don’t think you have to stop if you want to stay healthy. With some preparation and savvy substitutions, you can order meals that are as nutritious as the ones you prepare at home.

How to Eat Out When You’re Trying to Lose Weight

Doing either of my diets when you’re at home is super-simple. Whip up a shake, toss a SLIM Plate together in minutes, and sip on yummy bone broth any time you want. How easy is that? However, things can get a little trickier if you need to eat out at a restaurant during your diet.

In this case, it takes some savvy to enjoy your evening out without sabotaging your weight-loss efforts. Luckily, when it comes to this topic, I have a ton of experience. I spend half my life on the road, and that means I eat a lot of restaurant meals. Today, I’ll tell you what I order when I dine out—and I’ll also share three big secrets for planning ahead for success.

Smart options to choose at different restaurants

I’ve learned that it’s possible to eat well at just about any style of restaurant (fast-food joints excepted) without sending your diet off the rails. Here are some of my best secrets for dining out without putting on pounds.

At Mexican restaurants: Order steak, chicken, or shrimp fajitas without the tortillas. Carne asada is a great choice, too. Get lots of salsa, ask for extra guacamole on the side, and order a big salad.

At Greek or Middle Eastern restaurants: Go for kebabs, seafood, roast lamb or lamb chops, or gyro meat (if it doesn’t have fillers). Round out your meal with a big salad (without feta) drizzled with vinegar-and-oil or tahini dressing.

At steak houses: Choose steak (a no-brainer!), a bunless burger, roast chicken, or seafood. Ask the waiter to substitute a second non-starchy vegetable for the potato, and add a big side salad.

At Italian restaurants: Opt for mussels, shrimp, fish, or chicken—unbreaded, sautéed in butter or olive oil, and served without sauce. Alternately, see if the restaurant offers a salad that includes grilled chicken, seafood, or meat.

At farm-to-table restaurants: These are awesome because they offer loads of fresh veggies and they’re happy to meet the needs of discerning customers. Simply cut out any starchy sides and ask the waiter to substitute a second non-starchy vegetable. Also, ask for your food to be cooked in butter or olive oil, not vegetable oil.

At Japanese restaurants: A stir-fry served without noodles or rice is a good choice here. Also, see if the chef can make you sushi rolls without the rice. Steamed fish with vegetables is another excellent option that most restaurants are happy to offer.

At Chinese restaurants: Okay, this one is tricky. At many better restaurants, however, you can get the chef to steam chicken or shrimp with veggies for you. (It’s a good idea to call ahead and see if the chef can do this.) By the way, watch out for the egg drop and sweet-and-sour soups; they look like healthy choices, but they frequently contain corn starch or sugar.

At breakfast: Good choices include fried or poached eggs, nitrate-free bacon or sausage (if it’s available), avocados, and grapefruit or berries. Scrambled eggs and veggie-loaded omelets are terrific, too; just ask the chef to leave out any milk or cheese.

Three more tips for diet-friendly dining

Making the right meal choices at a restaurant is easy, and it’s even simpler if you do some prior planning. When I know I’ll be eating out, I take three steps ahead of time:

  • I go online. Nearly all restaurants now offer online menus. By glancing at the menu, I can tell if the restaurant has diet-friendly options or menu items I can tweak a little to make them work for me.
  • I call ahead. This way, I can find out if a restaurant is willing to be flexible—for instance, if they can sauté my fish in butter rather than frying it.
  • I have a little appetizer before I go. If I’m not starving when I get to a restaurant, it’s easier for me to avoid temptation. My favorite trick is to sip on a mug of bone broth or have a cup of collagen coffee before I leave for the restaurant. A few bites of avocado, some unsweetened coconut chips, or a closed handful of olives can also take the edge off.

When you combine my menu suggestions with a little bit of prep work, you’ll take all the pressure out of dining out. Rather than panicking when the waiter hands you a menu, you’ll be confident that you’re making the right choices and sticking to your plan. What’s more, you’ll know that you can eat well, rather than starving. So if you need to eat out while you’re doing one of my diets, relax… you’ve got this nailed!

Keep thinking big and living BOLD!

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