How To Eat Out & Still Lose Weight

Feb 02, 2022
By: Tedi Nikova, MPH RD

As a Dietitian, my clients always ask  me, “well what happens if I go out to dinner at a restaurant, how do I stay on track with my food plan?! “. Sticking to a healthier eating regime is completely do-able in any situation! I have listed my top 5 tips to ensure you feel confident when dining out!

#1. Make a plan. In your weight loss journey, a plan will always be essential. You want to be using your executive brain (i.e the planning brain), this part of the brain oversees making conscious and deliberate choices about what foods to eat. If we do not have a plan, that Is when the limbic region of the brain can take over (i.e the reward brain), this is the part of the brain the creates desire for food, and seeks instant gratification from less healthy food options, that may not be aligned with your food plan. How do we use our planning brain? My top tip is to look at the menu ahead of time when eating out, and plan on what you will eat. This will also keep you focused, and less distracted by others food choices, or, the menu offerings when you are at the restaurant.

#2. Choose your protein source first. Protein is one of the most essential nutrients for weight loss, because it shuts off your hunger hormones, and increases your fullness hormones after a meal. Protein is also the hardest macronutrient to overeat, I like to refer to this story to explain this:

Let’s imagine I offered you a large piece of steak for dinner, you ate it all and I asked if you wanted another large piece of steak. You say no since you are physically full! Then, I bring out a triple chocolate fudge cheesecake for dessert.. well suddenly you have enough room for the cake!”

The lesson from this scenario is that protein keeps you the most full, satisfied, and does not create the same over desire to over consume past the point of physical fullness - as does refined carbohydrates, and fatty foods.

 After you chose your protein, load up your dish with non-starchy vegetables on the side and hold the starch OR ask for a smaller portion of your-go to starch on the side. 

To read more about the role of protein in weight loss CLICK HERE.

#3. Look for key words.

 LIMIT: Fried, crispy, battered, creamy

These words indicate that the food has been cooked with a lot of oil, and/or added refined carbohydrates. This often adds some flavour, however you would not be missing out that much, and you will feel just as satisfied by picking a dish with one of the key words below:

CHOOSE: grilled, baked, steamed, roasted, braised, seared.

4.Share less healthy foods with other diners. If your favourite crispy calamari is on the menu, or your favourite dessert, opt for sharing that appetizer or dessert with others. Often a few bites of a dish will be satisfying enough!

5.Ask for a to-go container. Typically, restaurant portions are double, if not triple the portion we would make at home. Due to the large serving sizes, we tend to subconsciously eat past the point of physical fullness. A great trick is to ask for the to-go container right when the dish comes, this way you can put away half of the dish, or the amount that seems like a larger portion than you would typically have. This way your eyes are less likely to guide your food intake, and you get better process your physical fullness!

The key message I have for all of you is that you do not need to be on a restrictive or fad diet to lose weight! An eating regime for weight loss will have to be sustainable for the rest of your life! And, yes, that will include dining out! I challenge you to take begin viewing dining out as  opportunities to apply a healthy eating regime, and practice balance!

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