How to Eat Out and Lose Weight

You don't have to stay away from restaurants when you're losing weight!
How to Eat Out and Lose Weight
Are you steering clear of restaurants while you're trying to lose weight? Are you afraid of large portion sizes, cafeterias, bottomless bread baskets and high-calorie entrees? Believe it or not, shunning restaurants isn't a realistic approach to weight loss — and it's unnecessary. Start with this list of tips.

Dining Do's and Don'ts

1. Set a budget.
Determine how much you're willing to eat before looking at the menu. You can give yourself some leeway by scheduling some exercise on or near days you plan to eat out. Putting in gym time or going for a brisk walk will help offset a little extra eating. And remember, don't be flexible. You can loosen up a bit on special occasions, as long as you eat carefully most of the time. (Just don't let every day become a special occasion.)

2. Put on your game face.
Decide on some guidelines before you go to a restaurant, and stick to them. For instance:

  • Skip the all-inclusive menu and opt for à la carte selections. Doing so might not be as economical, but you'll probably eat less.
  • Take one piece of bread, then ask your server to remove the breadbasket from the table.

3. Make special requests.
You're paying good money for that meal, so you're entitled to make special requests or slight modifications. Why not say:

  • Can I get that without butter? Grilled? With the sauce on the side?
  • I'd like mixed greens instead of fries with my sandwich.

4. Practice portion control.
Some restaurant portions can be two, three, even four times the "normal" size–especially super-sized fast food meals. Keep your portions in check by:

  • Ordering a salad as a starter and then splitting a main entrée with a friend.
  • Creating your own scaled-down meal from a couple of appetizers and/or side dishes.

5. Break down (language) barriers.
If you don't know what a preparation term means, ask. In general, though, the following words translate into high-fat, high-calorie dishes:

  • Au gratin, scalloped, hollandaise.
  • Parmigiana, scampi, Bolognese.

6. Downsize the super-size.
Super-sized fast food meal options can be loaded with calories. Either:

  • Order something small, like a basic burger. After all, the first bite tastes the same as the last.
  • Order yourself a children's meal.

7. Watch out for extras.
The average burger with ketchup, lettuce and tomato isn't so bad. But one with "the works" is usually a caloric nightmare. Skip:

  • Bacon, cheese and mayonnaise.
  • Double-burger patties and extra pieces of bread.

8. Don't go top heavy.
Salad bars and garden salads grace menus across the country. But those extra toppings can sabotage your seemingly diet-conscious choices:

  • Go light on croutons, grated cheese and bacon.
  • Opt for small amounts of low-fat or nonfat dressings on the side.

9. Don't drink away your progress.
A drink with dinner is fine, but too many margaritas may wreak havoc on your dieting resolve. Keep your appetite under control by:

  • Alternating alcoholic beverages with noncaloric sodas or sparkling water.
  • Not drinking alcoholic beverages on an empty stomach.

10. Resign from the "clean plate club."
You paid for it so you have to eat it, right? Wrong. Just think of the health and emotional costs of those extra calories on your body. Downsize by:

  • Eating half the meal and doggie-bagging the rest.
  • Pushing your plate away when you're full.
  • And remember to eat slowly. It takes 20 minutes for your body to recognize that it's full.

Make these dining-out tips and tricks part of your repertoire. They'll make a night out on the town, lunch with your pals, or vacations and travel a lot easier.

When you follow Weight Watchers, you can still enjoy eating out while losing weight. With the two Weight Watchers food plans, you can have plenty of leeway to enjoy special occasions. You’ll be all set for great meals out. Learn more about our food plans.

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