Eating out at restaurants and cafes

Eating out at restaurants

Eating at restaurants is one of life's great pleasures and it's a truism that happiness comes from good food and good company.  The problem with restaurants and dieting is that restaurants add a lot of fats to their meals to make them taste good.  A typical restaurant meal commonly contains double the amount of energy as a home meal - or even more!  

So while you're on a diet, here are some strategies you can employ to keep your overall weight loss on track when you go to a restaurant.

How many times a week?  

Whether you are going to a sit-down restaurant or grabbing takeaway, you should consider the number of times a week you are going out.  Try to restrict yourself to one or two restaurant meals per week.  More than once or twice a week, then you really need to step back and consider your diet approach and work out how you can eat more home-made meals.

Menu time - Main Meals

Looking at the restaurant menu your eye will probably go to the usual foods that you love and this is when you're going to need to make some changes to your habits.  The good news is most restaurant menus have plenty of choices and this is your chance to try out some new foods you might have skipped over before.  

Reviewing the menu we will be trying to select a meal that aligns with our calorie allocation for dinner.  For an average person on a diet this would be approximately 500-700 calories and by making smart choices, this is possible at most restaurants.  Many restaurant menus now include the calories of the meal and that makes it easy to work out what you should eat.

When we review the menu we are going to be looking at how the meal is prepared and choosing a meal that is prepared in a way to reduce calories (not flavour!).  

IN - Meals that are: grilled, steamed, baked and roasted are all better choices.  The better meats to go for are fish and chicken, prepared by baking or grilling.  

OUT - Meals that are: fried, crumbed or deep-fried are all high calorie cooking methods.  Wagyu, lamb shoulder or minced beef dishes should be avoided as these meats are already high in fat and the restaurant will add more via their preparation methods.

Menu time - Side Dishes

Side dishes are an important part of a good restaurant meal and for side dishes we will be selecting vegetables preferably roasted and without dressing.  Salads may not be a good choice if they come with a lot of cheese or dressing.  Deep fried chips are generally a no-go when we're on a diet, and it's best to avoid mashed potatoes as well.

Alcohol and beverages

The strictness of your diet will affect how closely you need to watch your alcohol intake.  Most people could have a glass of wine with their main meal and not blow their diet.  But realistically on a diet you'll need to restrict alcohol to once a week otherwise weight loss progress will be too slow.  Avoid all sodas or soft drinks and drink tap water or sparkling water instead.

Menu time - Skip dessert

This one seems obvious but it has to be said that when you’re on a mission to lose weight you will need to skip the dessert section of the menu.  Restaurant meals are already high in calories and skipping dessert is a must to keep your diet on track.  If everyone around the table is going for dessert our suggestion would be to share a dessert with someone else, or simply go for a herbal tea.

Further reading - what 2000 calories looks like

This article by the New York Times gives you examples of 2000 calories from quick service restaurants.  You might be surprised how small the serves look and these are enough calories for an average person for a whole day.

Here's to healthy eating!

Cheers, Paul