List Image

Eating Out without Breaking your Diet

You’re at home, all set to prepare a healthy dinner that fits in your calorie budget, when a friend calls. She wants to check out that cute Italian restaurant that just opened. You stare down at your refrigerator and sigh. What do you do? Eat out, figuring you’ll break your diet? Or stay in and miss out on a great night? Turns out, you can have your metaphorical cake and eat it too. With a little creativity and menu scouring, you can enjoy a great meal out that doesn’t have you feeling guilty or killing yourself on the treadmill tomorrow.

Make reservations

When you are waiting to be seated and smelling the food from the kitchen, you’re alerting your senses. By the time you sit down, your body may be telling you that you’re hungrier than you actually are. Calling ahead and making reservations allows you to skip the olfactory meal—or at least reduce the time it has to set your “head hunger” soaring.

Waiting for a table also gives you time to have a drink at the bar. As good as this may sound at the end of the day, alcohol is calorie dense. Indulging in alcohol can also lower your inhibitions and numb hunger and satisfaction cues, which could lead you to overeat at dinner. Save the drink for your meal.


You don’t have to choose the specifically designated low-cal menu options to stay on track. Find ways to substitute instead. Start your meal with a garden salad or a broth-based soup which can help you feel fuller by the time your meal is served. Rather than getting the garlic mashed potatoes, ask for double veggies.

Consider lower calorie options if you are craving certain foods. You can make both healthy and indulgent choices. Get a turkey, veggie or black bean burger instead of a beef one for a leaner option. Rather than french fries, ask for a plain baked potato. You can top it off with salsa or fat-free ranch dressing for added flavor. This way you fill your carb craving without ingesting the saturated fats and extra calories found in fried foods.

Portion control

Let’s face it, most restaurant portion sizes are outrageous. When eating out, it seems like you get an entire pot of pasta in one bowl! When you order a dish you know will be huge, ask the server for a to-go box immediately. As soon as you get your food, cut the meal in half and stow it away for tomorrow. You can also save calories by splitting and sharing a meal with your friend —saving money is just an added bonus.

When ordering a salad, ask for the dressing on the side. This way you can manage how ‘dressed’ your lettuce gets. Some dressings are surprisingly high in calories, so this will save you more calories than you may think.

Say no to soda

Soda is high in calories and sugar—it’s like adding another meal on top of the one you chew. If you must have something flavored, opt for unsweetened ice tea or sparkling water with lemon. These choices are both refreshing, healthy and calorie-free!

Go ‘halvsies’

Occasionally it’s okay to go ahead and get dessert—just make sure you split it. If you’ve been making healthy choices, a few bites won’t set you back. Fruit is really the best option, but if that molten lava cake is whispering to you, ask your friend, or friends, to share.