Tips to leave you satisfied, not stuffed

Winning strategies

Have you ever gotten into your car after an evening of eating out and had to open your belt a notch? We’ve all been there: a few extra pieces of bread or a mindless overindulging of an entire platter of pasta. Take control by preparing yourself with the right tactics, and you can eat out while sticking to a healthy nutrition plan.

Before you go to the restaurant:

  • Look up the restaurant’s menu online to review your options beforehand so you’re not blindsided by the unhealthy temptations.
  • Have a small snack beforehand to keep hunger at bay. Have an ounce of nuts or an apple before leaving for the restaurant to curb your appetite.
  • Make reservations. Waiting for a table will increase your hunger.

While at the restaurant:

  • Control portions upfront. Consider splitting a meal, ordering an appetizer and side salad as your meal, ordering a lunch portion, or asking your server to bring half your meal in a carryout container at the end of the meal.
  • Don’t assume. Compare the calorie content of menu items. Calorie-tracking apps make it easy by letting you search by restaurant name.
  • Be mindful, take your time, and focus on the company and conversation, not just the food.
  • Stop eating when you are just starting to feel mildly full.
  • Drink water between bites—it will help to fill you up and slow you down. Also, go easy on the booze, as it contributes significant calories and can sabotage your best-laid plans.
  • When you are finished eating, look for the waiter to take your plate away. Pop a piece of gum in your mouth to discourage picking.

Sizing up the menu

Appetizers

  • Fresh salads help to fill you up without adding a lot of extra calories. Keep it vegetable-based: Avoid bacon, croutons, cheese, candied nuts, and mayonnaise-based items (macaroni salad, tuna salad, potato salad).
  • Order salad dressing on the side and choose the reduced-fat/fat-free option. Try balsamic vinegar or lemon juice with a dash of salt and pepper as an alternative.
  • Decline the bread basket or request one slice per person. Choose whole-grain bread or rolls instead of croissants or biscuits.
  • Choose broth-based, vegetable-rich soups and pass on calorie-rich cream-based soups and bisques.
  • Flavor steamed or poached seafood with lemon or cocktail sauce as a healthy option.

Entrees

  • Look for words that indicate lower-fat preparation techniques such as “grilled,” “broiled,” “baked,” “roasted,” or “steamed,” or order foods prepared "dry” with sauce on the side.
  • Order fish and poultry more often than red meat. If choosing red meat, choose a small, lean cut such as a petite fillet.
  • Do not order dishes identified as fried/stir-fried, breaded, crispy, tempura, creamed, or buttered.
  • Use condiments such as ketchup, mustard, pickles, vinegar, or hot sauce vs. mayonnaise, cheese-based, and creamy sauces.
  • Complement pasta with a tomato-based versus cream-based sauce.
  • Consider a healthy vegetarian option.

Sides

  • Instead of French fries, request a baked potato, steamed vegetables, green salad, cup of vegetable soup, or fresh fruit.
  • Request your potato toppings on the side and limit the amount used.
  • Make substitutions. Choosing the steamed vegetables instead of the potato or rice can save you 100-200 calories.

Desserts

  • Split a dessert amongst a group.
  • Request a serving of berries or fruit.
  • Have a single scoop of a low-fat ice cream or sorbet.
  • Make a rule to limit dessert to once or twice a week.
  • Skip altogether and sip on a cup of coffee.