How to Lose Weight and Eat Out at Restaurants

By Rachael Derr, RD 

Now more than ever before, restaurants are creating healthy, delicious meals for their guests, allowing you to make your weight loss plan a realistic and long-term goal.

The easiest way to do this is to utilize, where dietitians are finding the healthy choices for you.  No digging through lengthy nutrition charts required!  When visiting a restaurant that does not participate in the Healthy Dining program, these tips can help.

Make sure your meal includes at least two healthy food groups.

To ensure you are choosing the best options at a restaurant, make sure your meal includes at least two of the following food groups:

  • Lean protein: Lean proteins will help reduce your calorie and saturated fat intake while assisting in repairing muscle after a workout and helping with satiety (keeping you fuller for longer between meals).
    • Best sources: Fish, poultry (white meat without the skin), lean ground beef (93/7), eggs, tofu, beans, peas and lentils.
  • Whole Grains: The fiber found in whole grains assists with digestion and also helps with satiety.
    • Best sources: Whole wheat breads, pastas, crackers, tortillas, quinoa, barley, brown rice, oatmeal.
  • Fruits & Vegetables: These lower calorie foods provide essential nutrients while keeping you full.
  • Low-Fat Dairy: Choosing the low-fat or fat-free version of your favorite dairy products will save you calories in your restaurant meal.


  • Watch your intake from fat calories! Choose low-fat salad dressings, and be conscious of menu items that may contain hidden sources of oils, butter, mayo, cheese etc. Avoid menu items with the terms aioli, smothered, crispy, creamy, loaded, breaded, buttery, au gratin.
  • Request dressings and sauces on the side.
  • Request that the chef uses less oil or butter to prepare your meal.
  • Always keep portion control in mind! Even healthy menu items can give you a calorie overload if the portion size is too large. Fight the temptation to finish everything on your plate in one sitting by asking your server for a to-go box at the beginning of your meal. Pack half of it up for lunch the next day!
  • Salad seems like the go-to choice when you’re watching your weight. However, sometimes salads can be the biggest calorie culprits! Be on the lookout for high-calorie toppings such as: cheese, fried garnishes (like tortilla strips, wontons), croutons, bacon, fried proteins and salad dressings. Opt for the fat-free or low-fat salad dressing OR just toss your salad with a freshly squeezed lemon for a burst of flavor without the added calories!
  • If you are dining at a restaurant that offers complimentary appetizers, such as tortilla chips or bread with butter, request that your server not bring these out. This way you don’t fill up on empty calories before your healthy meal can make it to the table.
  • Stick to calorie-free beverages like water and unsweetened iced tea.
  • Look for menu items that are steamed, broiled, roasted or grilled rather than fried

Don’t be afraid to ask your server for nutrition information so you can make the best choices for you and your family while dining out. Many restaurants even post this information online so you can look ahead and know which menu items fit within your weight loss plan.  You can lose weight and eat out at restaurants with these simple tips and tools like

Feeling deprived and hungry shouldn’t be part of your diet.  Enjoy menu choices like these at restaurants nationwide to fuel your diet in the most delicious way