How to Stick to Your Diet When Dining Out

By Dr. Serena Goldstein, ND

It’s no mystery that extra weight can be gained for a multitude of reasons, but did you know that nutrition accounts for about 80% of determining one’s weight, with the other 20% attributed to exercise and a healthful lifestyle? While psychological and physiological factors can be involved, too, strategies to make better food choices can help with weight loss, as well as potentially heal and prevent other health concerns.

A poor diet can lead to weight gain, as well as issues like type 2 diabetes, hormone imbalance (e.g., low testosterone, polycystic ovarian syndrome), blood sugar dysregulation, heart disease, depression, anxiety, insomnia, unhealthy gut bacteria, thyroid disorder, nutrient deficiency, and constipation, to name a few. Creating lifestyle strategies to make the most nutritious choices when dining out, cooking, or at parties, for example, can help you achieve a healthy weight and improve overall health.

In general, a healthful diet focuses on healthy fats, protein, fruits and vegetables. Healthy fats like avocado and olive oil help to keep us satiated and encourage hormone balance. Protein, animal or vegetarian sources, is important for tissue repair (e.g., hair, nails, muscles) and a vital component of enzymes and chemical messengers (e.g., hormones, neurotransmitters). Foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes provide fiber, and important vitamins and minerals. Fiber plays an important role in weight loss, as it helps keep us full and promotes healthy gut bacteria.

Cooking at home can give you more control over how and what is prepared; however, restaurants provide an easy solution when home cooking isn’t an option. Follow these tips to help you achieve your health and weight loss goals even when dining out.

  • Increase fiber in your meal while reducing calories by opting for a side salad or grilled vegetables (preferably in olive oil instead of butter or request steamed).
  • Consider a bed of lettuce instead of a bun or bread for salads and burgers.
  • Order guacamole or avocado as a topping for any salad or sandwich. Avocado is rich in vitamins and minerals, healthy fats, protein, and fiber.
  • Avoid heavy, creamy dressings or sauces, and ask for olive oil, lemon juice or lower calorie choices like tomato-based sauces.
  • Many restaurants are happy to accommodate guests with grilled vegetables and a lean piece of protein (e.g., red meat, chicken, turkey, fish) even if it’s not on the menu. Not into meat? Hummus with crudité, beans, or eggs are also great options that are readily available and easy to customize.
  • Chew each bite of food thoroughly. Portions tend to be larger at restaurants, so this tactic also gives your brain time to figure out whether full yet.

Results don’t happen overnight, but consistency and the right habits incorporated into daily life will help you reach your goals. Weight is a multifaceted issue, and a regularly consumed, whole food-rich diet provides immense health benefits to our state of health, especially when combined with exercise, good sleep, and healthy lifestyle habits.

Take the work out of making the best choices at restaurants. Order menu choices like those found on Healthy Dining Finder, hand-picked by Healthy Dining’s team of food-loving dietitians.