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Tips for Dining Out While Saving Your Waistline

11 Strategies to decrease calories and fat while eating out

by Meri Raffetto RD, LDN  |  2917 views  |  4 comments  |        Rate this now! 


There is no doubt about it: We are eating in restaurants more often than ever before. This is likely the result of a fast-paced lifestyle and the convenience of restaurants. As a child, I remember getting fast food once every couple of months and a sit down restaurant a couple times a year. Now I, just like many others, depend on restaurants several times a week. In 1970, Americans spent just 26% of their food dollars on restaurant meals. Today we spend 46% of food dollars on eating out.

What have also grown are restaurant portion sizes. The average restaurant portion size is large enough to feed three adults. Furthermore, studies have found a direct association between eating out and higher caloric intakes and higher body weights. This is important to know since obesity rates have doubled in the past 20 years, and currently 65% of adults are overweight.

This doesn’t mean you have to forego eating in restaurants. That concept is no longer realistic in our society. Instead, the key is to become more aware of what you are ordering and how much is on your plate. When we were younger, eating out may have meant a special occasion where we could indulge and order whatever we want. This may have then become a conditioned response for many of us, and can lead us into consuming significantly high calorie, fat, and sodium levels on a regular basis. If you are eating in restaurants weekly, remember to pick a couple of outings a month as your indulgence meals, and select simple, healthy choices for the every day meals.

Here are 11 healthy tips for dining out:

1. At lunch, opt for a half deli sandwich with vegetable soup or side salad instead of a burger and fries. You can find these items in your local deli, supermarket as well as most sit down restaurants.

2. Avoid specialty breads such as foccacia, baguettes or rolls on sandwiches, and choose whole grain bread instead. These breads can add a significantly to your calorie level.

3. Avoid anything mixed with heavy sauces or mayonnaise (a tuna or egg salad sandwich in a restaurant may have more mayonnaise than you would add at home).

4. Get your salad dressings, sauces, mayonnaise, and gravies on the side. This way you can control the amount that is used.

5. Eat half or even a quarter of the regular entrée or split the meal with a friend. Remember, most restaurant portions can feed 3 adults.

6. Share one dessert.

7. Skip the extra cheese on anything you order. This alone can save you over 100 calories.

8. Choose lean meats such as chicken, turkey, or fish. A turkey sandwich in place of a roast beef sandwich can save you 100 calories and 10 grams of saturated fat.

About the Author

Meri Raffetto is a Registered Dietitian, and a columnist for Work It, Mom! and the founder of Real Living Nutrition Services, an online weight loss program that empowers people to make small changes s

Read more by Meri Raffetto RD, LDN

4 comments so far...

  • So true Spazzmom! :) Restaurant eating is much more expensive than making things at home.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Meri Raffetto RD, LDN on 15th August 2007

  • I find myself with an open jaw when I go to restaurants, trying to find SOMETHING i know i cant make cheaper at home. I am so cheap, its really hard for me to even buy a cup of coffee at a restaurant, because I think, I could make a months worth of coffee for that price! Except whe I go for chinese at my favorite authentic chinese restaurant, then i find myself eating buffet style. Congrat Jenorama on he changes.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by spazzmom on 15th August 2007

  • Hi Jenorama- it really is the small changes that make a difference. Congratulations on your new changes!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Meri Raffetto RD, LDN on 30th July 2007

  • Honestly, since I read this a few weeks ago, I think this has change my life (I am lucky as the managing editor here to be able to read some things ahead of time!). I think about what you said about how when we go out, we sometimes think we deserve to order something great--and I have drastically changed how I order food when I go out. Thank you so much.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Jen Creer on 25th July 2007