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Dine By Choice, Not Chance

Dining out can be a risky diet situation for those minding their calories. Thankfully, you can say ‘yes’ to dinner plans and still lose weight. Learn how to dine by choice, not chance, with these four steps.

Step 1 - Organize your social calendar

As lovely as a dinner out may seem, calories can add up pretty quickly in restaurant dishes.

Be aware that dining out can double calories and fat, compared to a typical meal at home. Just be sure to limit your nights out and to make smart meal choices. It’s all about balance! Keeping your social plans well-organized can help you plan for nights. Try adding activity to make up for a larger entree, a glass of wine or a shared dessert.

Step 2 - Pre-plan your meal

Picking out a restaurant in advance can be beneficial for coordinating calendars and weight loss. Go online to preview the restaurant menu, so you can plan your meal in advance. Many restaurants also provide nutritional information. Take a look to determine your best options. Unexpected dinner plans may throw you off your diet game, so preparation is key!

Step 3 - Know your servings and portions

Your plate should be well-portioned and balanced; choose lean meats, vegetables and keep sauces, dressings and butter on the side. For reference here’s a chart to help you successfully plan a healthy meal.

1 meat, 1 starch,
1 milk, 1 fruit
(250-300 calories)
2 meat, 2 starch,
2 vegetable, 1 fat
(300-350 calories)
3 meat, 1 starch,
2 vegetable, 1 fat
(300-350 calories)

Note: This is the meal structure for a 1200 calorie menu. Refer to the Flexible Meal Planning section in the Real Life Real Solutions guide for other calorie levels.

Remember, the food exchanges and calorie ranges are just a guide. If you want to have a larger dinner, move some of your exchanges from breakfast or lunch. Just don’t ever skip meals completely -- it’s important to fuel your body all day to keep hunger at bay.

Step 4 - Make smart menu choices

Placing a healthy restaurant order is an art form. Thankfully, most restaurants are happy to accommodate. Ask for what you want--whether it is salad in the place of French fries or dressing on the side. Dining out doesn’t have to be risky if you make smart menu choices.

Here are a few questions to ask, before placing your order:

“May I start things off?”

Be the first to order in a group so you won’t be tempted by other peoples’ choices. It’s an easy tip, but it can mean all the difference for your diet plan.

“How is it prepared?”

Listen for low-fat cooking techniques versus high-fat ones.

• Broiled• Fried
• Baked• Deep Fried
• Steamed• Crisped
• Grilled• Breaded and Fried
• Blackened• Creamed
• Poached
• Stir-fried
• Roasted
• Braised

“What are the ingredients?”

Be aware of these common food terms that typically have high-fat ingredients.

• Aioli • Country • Crusted • Golden brown
• Alfredo • Ultimate • Crunchy • Loaded
• Bisque • Supreme • Kung Pao • Comfort
• Breaded • Flaky • Crispy • Béchamel
• Creamed • Bacon • Meaty • Jumbo
• Lover’s • Bérnaise • Rich • Club
• Pesto • Beurre • The Works • Old-fashioned
• Smothered • Cheesy

“May I make a special request?”

Little changes, over time, add up to big results! So remember to ask:

  • Please leave off the... cheese, nuts, sour cream, skin from the chicken.
  • Can you use less... oil, olives, cheese, salad dressing?
  • Would you add more... vegetables, fruit, salad?
  • I’d like the sauce/salad dressing served on the side.
  • May I substitute... sliced tomatoes, salad, fresh fruit?
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