Let’s face the facts, it’s sometimes nice to have someone else cook a delicious meal for us. Going out and having dinner with loved ones is one of life’s greatest pleasures! Just because you’re keeping an eye on your calories doesn’t mean you can never eat out. Restaurants do, however, often serve large portions of high-calorie foods which can make dining out hard to stick to your healthy eating game plan.
Guess what? You can still enjoy a night with friends without beating yourself up about it the next morning. You’ll also feel better knowing that you made some good choices.
Here are 4 great tips for cutting calories while dining out.
Share Your Huge Meals
It’s no secret that restaurants serve two or three times the amount of food one person needs in a meal. You don’t have to finish these mega-sized portions! Portion control is crucial when it comes to watching your calories. If the main courses are big, try sharing one with a friend. Eat slowly, so you can stop when you feel satisfied and not miserably “stuffed”. Drinking water with meals is a zero-calorie option that fills up your stomach and helps you feel more full. Listen to your body and be mindful of how you’re feeling as you eat.
You can even ask for a doggy bag before your meal comes and place half of your meal in it before you even take the first bite. This way you’re saving a ton of calories, you won’t be tempted to eat more, and you’ll even have a meal ready-to-eat for the next day!
If ordering french fries, mac n cheese, or mashed potatoes are a habit for you, this tip can save you major calories. We get it, you’re eating out for pleasure so you probably don’t have your heart set on the steamed vegetables (although those are always a great option). If you deny yourself completely, you’ll likely be disappointed, hungry, and grab for your friend’s french fries.
Instead, opt for a side salad or plain baked potato. Baked potatoes are healthier than fries as they’re not deep-fried and drenched in oil. A little bit of butter or olive oil adds a bit of fat and flavor, which can help you feel more full. You can even add broccoli or another veggie on top with some salsa. You’ll be satisfied and not feel like you’re missing out.
Remember, the main dish is usually the best, tastiest part of the meal. Let that dish really shine by picking a healthier, lower-calorie side dish.
Focus on Your (One) Favorite Thing
One reason people eat so many calories when eating out at restaurants is the abundance of different things to order. You may be used to ordering drinks, appetizers, a main course with a heavy side and dessert. By the end of the meal, you may feel so full that you’ve forgotten how good your favorite dish was.
Instead, build your order around your single favorite dish. This could be a main dish, like a steak or burger, a special appetizer or even dessert! Choose lower-calorie options for your other orders, or skip them entirely. If you know you’re getting a large burger, skip the appetizer and see if you can get a side salad instead of fries. If there’s a dessert you love at your favorite restaurant, skip the appetizer and order a lower-calorie main.
While some main courses or desserts are so calorie-heavy that eating just one is more than a meal, in most cases you can plan your meal around that one thing and save calories. And if that one dish is still too big, you can always take some to go!
Don’t Drink Soda, and Don’t Drink Calories
Don’t drink soda. This is a small, simple, easy tip to save a lot of calories. Soda is high in calories and sugar, doesn’t make you feel full, and usually doesn’t add to your enjoyment of your meal. Instead, swap out your soda for water when possible.
This advice extends to most beverages you’ll get when eating out. Sodas, smoothies and alcoholic drinks are fairly high in calories and tend to not be filling. Dessert drinks, like milkshakes, have extremely high calorie counts. You’ll be better off focusing on your favorite dishes and skipping the liquid calories.
Know Before You Go
Before you even step foot into the restaurant, do your research first. Most restaurants have their menus online for you to check out. Look into healthy dishes with lower calories such as grilled items, salads, and vegetables. Make sure to be aware that just because a dish is called a “salad” or “healthy” doesn’t mean it’s not actually stuffed with calories. Once you get to the restaurant, stick to your decision and order first so you’re not tempted to order something that someone else is getting.
Restaurants will almost always accommodate special requests if they’re reasonable. If you’re dying for a juicy burger, try ordering it with a lettuce wrap “bun” instead. Ditching the bread will save you calories. Limiting sauces, ordering items without cheese, and ordering an appetizer as a meal are also a few great calorie-saving options.
3-Bite Rule for Treats
If you’re a dessert lover, this one’s for you. Instead of ordering a dessert, try fresh fruit to try to satisfy your sweet tooth. If you just have to order a high-calorie dessert or your friend wants to get one to share, practice the “3-bite rule”. Order the delectable chocolate cheesecake if you have to but limit yourself to 3 bites. Take 3, set your fork down and relax. You’ll find that most of the time, those 3 bites are just what you need and are very satisfying.
If you find it’s difficult to stop once you take those 3 bites, try sharing your dessert with a friend. Pass it away after your 3 bites so the temptation is removed. Or ask for a takeaway box for your dessert before you order. After your 3 bites, box it up so it’s out of sight.
If you know going into the restaurant that you’re most looking forward to the dessert, order a smaller or healthier meal and skip the appetizers. Or, if you know you’re getting a high-calorie main dish, consider deciding ahead of time to skip dessert. Being strategic with your choices can be fun, and helps you get that dish you love while feeling less guilty.
Next time you’re out to eat remember these 4 helpful calorie-saving tips. You’re spending your hard-earned money on a nice dinner, so put your smartphone down and relax. By being mindful of what you’re putting into your body you’re likely to enjoy it that much more.
Saving calories doesn’t have to be stressful or ruin your social life. Putting some thought into your choices and avoiding automatically piling on excess calories really adds up. Simply incorporate small changes into your current lifestyle and you’ll reap the benefits in the long run.
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