7 Tips to Get Less Calories in Your Restaurant Food
Eating out is fun, but it can be tough to stay healthy. Follow these quick tips to get less calories in your restaurant food!
Face it—we all want someone to cook for us from time to time.
While it’s not always feasible to pay for a personal chef, going out to dinner lets us put our feet up and enjoy ourselves while someone else makes us a delicious meal.
If you don’t know how to control what goes in your meal, however, you might end up with a lot of ingredients that aren’t so healthy. Restaurant food often tastes so good because it’s LOADED with calories in the form of butter, oils, sauces, etc.
It’s delicious, and it’s satisfying. However, it’s usually not too kind to your waistline.
A 2013 study reported that the average restaurant entrée has almost the full amount of fat, calories, and sodium that you should eat in an entire day.
Here are some tips for cutting the calories in your restaurant food. We’ll help you enjoy a night out without regretting it in the morning.
7 Tips to Get Less Calories in Your Restaurant Food
1. Carefully select your salad options.
Restaurant salads can be great, but they can also derail your diet. According to Spark People, some restaurant salads have more calories than two Big Macs.
How is that even possible???
Lots of items on your salad can help you stay satisfied. However, if those items include plenty of sugar and fat, they can quickly add calories. Stay away from fried chicken, candied nuts, cheese, tortilla strips, croutons and sour cream.
Often, the salad dressing is a calorie culprit. Cut the calories by ordering the dressing on the side, and use the bare minimum.
Dip the tines of your fork in the dressing before scooping up a mouthful of salad. You’ll get the flavor without the fat and sugar overload.
You can also try swapping out salad dressing for salsa.
2. Don’t do dips.
It can be tempting to share a dip with the table for an appetizer. However, dips are often high in fat and calories. They’ll fill you up before your meal arrives, but you’ll still feel pressured to eat your entrée.
Do you really need that double dose of calories? Plus, the chips, crackers or bread that are often served with dips don’t have much nutrition in exchange for their high carb count.
If you must nosh on an appetizer, raw or steamed seafood is a better option.
Raw veggies with salsa can also keep your hands and mouth busy so that you don’t fill up on unhealthy alternatives.
Ordering a salad before your meal can help you consume fewer calories when your entrée arrives. Just remember to steer clear of the high-calorie toppings and dressings.
3. Swap your sides.
French fries, coleslaw, and mashed potatoes are delicious, and they are also a calorie nightmare. However, do you really go out to eat so that you can be presented with a side dish of soggy steamed vegetables?
If you’re at a chain restaurant or a casual place that offers your typical American fare, it may not be worth it to order vegetables. You’ll just be disappointed, and you’ll snack on your friends’ French fries instead.
A baked potato is always a satisfying option for a restaurant side. A small pat of butter adds some good fat.
Better yet, spoon some salsa on the top. If you did get steamed veggies, using them as a topping for the baked potato makes them much more palatable.
If you are at a high-quality farm-to-table type of restaurant, chances are they have some amazingly quirky and delicious veggie options. If that’s the case, ask them to triple the serving size.
Offer to pay extra for the additional veggies. They may not even charge you for the larger serving.
I often substitute my potatoes or rice for an extra portion of veggies, and I’ve never had a problem!
4. Decrease your portion size.
Restaurant portions are known to be majorly oversized, and it’s just another reason for the obesity epidemic in the country.
Alex and I found this our firsthand during our trip to Bali, an island in Indonesia. Their portion sizes were TINY compared to what we were used to. We felt hungry for the first week or two, but then we adjusted and felt great eating the portion sizes that we were served!
Huge restaurant portions give you an unrealistic expectation of what you’re supposed to eat. If you’re the type of person who feels driven to clean your plate, you might end up eating a lot more than you need to.
Ask for a carry-out box as your meal arrives. Immediately place half of the food into the box, and stash it away. That will prevent you from overeating.
You can also order an appetizer as an entrée.
As long as you stick with something that’s heavy on the vegetables and not the fried foods, you will probably consume fewer calories. You also won’t leave the restaurant feeling like someone needs to roll you out.
5. Order water.
Calorie-containing beverages usually have very little nutritional value. Instead of wasting your calories on something that’s not even going to fill you up, order water.
If you think that’s just boring, squeeze a lemon or lime into it. If you find it hard to refrain from drinking alcohol, especially in a social situation, stick with a clear liquor and soda water with a lemon and/or lime.
This is my personal go-to at restaurants and bars!
Don’t be fooled by thinking that tonic or diet soda is a good option. The artificial sweeteners in diet sodas can trick your body into burning less fat and craving more sugar, according to Dr. Mercola.
6. Choose the right condiments.
Condiments can sabotage your diet.
Mayonnaise, ranch dipping sauce, Caesar dressing, honey mustard and even ketchup can be high in calories. Sugar is often added to condiments as well, which only adds to the calorie count.
Low-calorie condiments like mustard, vinegar, and lemon juice provide lots of flavor with no regret.
Stick to these condiments when possible, and opt for a simple mix of salt and pepper when all else fails.
This video gives great advice about seasonings and condiments that are low in calories. When you’re not sure what kinds of condiments a restaurant will offer, bring your own.
7. Check the menu before you go.
If it’s possible, do a little research before you hit up the restaurant. Having a good idea of what’s on the menu can help you decide what you’re going to customize before you go.
Preparing yourself can also help you avoid giving in to last-minute cravings just because you can’t decide on a healthy option.
You can also call ahead to ask about substitutions or preparation methods, although I can’t say that I have never taken it quite this far. You can usually find something.
Plus, knowing what’s on the menu gives you a chance to avoid places that just don’t have low-calorie choices.
Lastly, make sure to ALWAYS have a plan!
If you need help in this area, make sure to check out our 21-Day Fat Loss Challenge. It comes with a list of specifically approved and unapproved foods to make your life easier when it comes time to make decisions.
Lauren at Avocadu
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