However, things can get a little trickier if you need to eat out at a restaurant during your diet. In this case, it takes some savvy to enjoy your evening out without sabotaging your weight-loss efforts.
Luckily, when it comes to this topic, I have a ton of experience. I spend half my life on the road, and that means I eat a lot of restaurant meals. Today, I’ll tell you what I order when I dine out—and I’ll also share three big secrets for planning ahead for success.
Smart options to choose at different restaurants
I’ve learned that it’s possible to eat well at just about any style of restaurant (fast-food joints excepted) without sending your diet off the rails. Here are some of my best secrets for dining out without putting on pounds.
At Mexican restaurants: Order steak, chicken, or shrimp fajitas without the tortillas. Carne asada is a great choice, too. Get lots of salsa, ask for extra guacamole on the side, and order a big salad.
At Greek or Middle Eastern restaurants: Go for kebabs, seafood, roast lamb or lamb chops, or gyro meat (if it doesn’t have fillers). Round out your meal with a big salad (without feta) drizzled with vinegar-and-oil or tahini dressing.
At steak houses: Choose steak (a no-brainer!), a bunless burger, roast chicken, or seafood. Ask the waiter to substitute a second non-starchy vegetable for the potato, and add a big side salad.
At Italian restaurants: Opt for mussels, shrimp, fish, or chicken—unbreaded, sautéed in butter or olive oil, and served without sauce. Alternately, see if the restaurant offers a salad that includes grilled chicken, seafood, or meat.
At farm-to-table restaurants: These are awesome because they offer loads of fresh veggies and they’re happy to meet the needs of discerning customers. Simply cut out any starchy sides and ask the waiter to substitute a second non-starchy vegetable. Also, ask for your food to be cooked in butter or olive oil, not vegetable oil.
At Japanese restaurants: A stir-fry served without noodles or rice is a good choice here. Also, see if the chef can make you sushi rolls without the rice. Steamed fish with vegetables is another excellent option that most restaurants are happy to offer.
At Chinese restaurants: Okay, this one is tricky. At many better restaurants, however, you can get the chef to steam chicken or shrimp with veggies for you. (It’s a good idea to call ahead and see if the chef can do this.) By the way, watch out for the egg drop and sweet-and-sour soups; they look like healthy choices, but they frequently contain corn starch or sugar.
At breakfast: Good choices include fried or poached eggs, nitrate-free bacon or sausage (if it’s available), avocados, and grapefruit or berries. Scrambled eggs and veggie-loaded omelets are terrific, too; just ask the chef to leave out any milk or cheese.
Three more tips for diet-friendly dining
Making the right meal choices at a restaurant is easy, and it’s even simpler if you do some prior planning. When I know I’ll be eating out, I take three steps ahead of time:
- I go online. Nearly all restaurants now offer online menus. By glancing at the menu, I can tell if the restaurant has diet-friendly options or menu items I can tweak a little to make them work for me.
- I call ahead. This way, I can find out if a restaurant is willing to be flexible—for instance, if they can sauté my fish in butter rather than frying it.
- I have a little appetizer before I go. If I’m not starving when I get to a restaurant, it’s easier for me to avoid temptation. My favorite trick is to sip on a mug of bone broth or have a cup of collagen coffee before I leave for the restaurant. A few bites of avocado, some unsweetened coconut chips, or a closed handful of olives can also take the edge off.
When you combine my menu suggestions with a little bit of prep work, you’ll take all the pressure out of dining out. Rather than panicking when the waiter hands you a menu, you’ll be confident that you’re making the right choices and sticking to your plan. What’s more, you’ll know that you can eat well, rather than starving. So if you need to eat out while you’re doing one of my diets, relax… you’ve got this nailed!
Keep thinking big and living BOLD!