Top Strategies for Watching Calories When Dining Out

Eating out. Sometimes it seems impossible to make good choices. Restaurants sell more food when it tastes good, and the easiest way to make it taste good is to add fattening sauces or unhealthy amounts of salt or mounds of sugar.

Mounds of sugar

Mmmmmm. Delish.

So what’s a girl to do? That skinny girl is screaming to get out, so you could grab some chocolate to shut her up before ordering a plate of fried chicken. Or you could buck up and devise a strategy to make sure your meal doesn’t turn into a dieting disaster.

Here are some of my top dieting strategies in restaurants.

1. Look up foods beforehand.

If you can, research the restaurant in advance and choose your meal before arriving. Or look up foods on your phone before ordering.

I recently didn’t look up something on purpose because I didn’t want to know how many calories were in it. I regretted it later when I discovered that the sandwich had 950 belly-busting calories. Add curly fries and a pop (I’m from the Midwest, so yeah, it’s “pop”) and you have one huge diet FAIL.

2. Eat half, and save half for later.

I learned this one from my aunt. When her meal is served, she immediately removes half of it from the plate and places it in reusable plastic containers that she carries with her.

It’s less tempting to overeat when you remove the food before you start eating. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve promised myself to refrain from eating a gigantic restaurant portion, only to eventually eat every last crumb.

3. “Supersize” is never a bargain.

It’s tempting to go for larger portions at fast food restaurants simply because they’re a better deal. If you have a bargain-hunting side (i.e., if you’re a cheapskate like me), you might have to remind yourself that the cash you save is not worth the price you pay in poor health.

Or if you have trouble relating to health consequences, ask yourself if “supersize” will still be a bargain if you end up having to shop for larger clothes.

Chris Farley from the movie "Tommy Boy" saying the famous line, "Fat guy in a little coat."

Most of us can't wear little clothes as well as Chris did.

Hit Me With Your Best Shot

What’s your favorite strategy for managing your calories when eating out?


  1. I almost always find the menu online ahead of time and decide what one or two things I might choose from. No place that I go to has nutritional info, but I can make an educated guess. The other day we went to a Japanese Steakhouse that my son chose for his “going back to college goodbye” meal and I cringed watching the chef slab on the butter as he cooked our dinner in front of us:(

  2. Karen,

    Sometimes ignorance really is bliss. If it’d been prepared in the kitchen, you might never have known, but at least this way, you can account for it!

  3. I definitely try to look up nutrition info beforehand when possible. I also like to split a meal with someone or take a lot home.

  4. Laura Jane,

    I like the idea of splitting it with someone. You can’t be a total pig or your friend won’t get anything to eat!

  5. Ordering vegetarian , as well as ordering grilled foods like shrimp, salmon, and chicken cuts the calories. Then eat all of your salad (without croutons, and dressing on the side, only dipping the salad into the dressing enough to taste it), avoid bread baskets, and eat the veggies on your main entree first.

  6. Valerie M,

    I got burned the other night when I forgot to ask for dressing on the side. Luckily, they didn’t put too much on, but still, could’ve saved myself some calories. Lesson learned.

  7. Bobbi S.,

    Wow, thanks for the award!

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