August 27, 2014
Tips to Save Big (in Calories) at Restaurants

Ever wonder how your trainer, dietitian or slim friend goes out to eat and doesn't gain weight? Chances are they hardly ever do it, or they're savvy at ordering lighter meals at restaurants when they do go out... or both! Steal some plays from our healthy-meals-out-playbook, and save big on your total calories eaten at a restaurant meal:


1. Share your meal (or get half boxed right away in a to-go container)

A great way to get half the calories without changing a thing about the food you're ordering! If you're not with someone, ask for half to be put in a to-go container right away. It's easier to eat half the portion if it's already set aside. This is a great way to save money, too!


2. Substitute the starchy side for veggies

An easy and highly effective way to cut the calories from the least filling part of the meal: the potato, rice, bread or other starchy side can be substituted for extra salad or seasonal veggies at almost any restaurant


3. Substitute the high-fat meat for a leaner choice

Love the flavor of the sauce on your favorite burger, for example? Sub a chicken breast for the burger patty and save on fat and overall calories. Use shellfish or lean poultry whenever you're able: example, shrimp fajitas vs. steak or chicken kebabs vs. lamb


4. Eat less of the grain: Order thin-crust, make it lettuce-wrapped or make it open-faced (skip the top slice of bread) for example

Get the flavor of the filling, the meat, the toppings and use veggies or less bread to transport those flavors to your taste buds!


5. Plan to try (not buy) the dessert: Don't order your own, order to share or sneak a taste

One dessert is plenty for a large group. Just with one person? Ask if they'd mind you trying a bite of what they order, then set your fork aside and move onto decaf coffee or herbal tea to cleanse your palate


6. Skip the drink: Alcohol-containing, juice or otherwise

Stick with water, club soda with lemon or lime, decaf coffee, herbal tea or unsweetened iced tea. Liquid calories do not impact your satiety the same way solid calories do, so best just to avoid the drinks when watching your health and waistline (think of how long it takes to burn 150 calories on the treadmill to equate to having those liquid calories)

7. Order it "dry": condiments can make or break a calorie budget!

Steakhouses will almost always slather some butter or oil, plus extra seasonings and flavors onto their meat so remember to ask for yours to be prepared 'dry', without this. Ask for burgers without sauce (or with it on the side), salads with dressing on the side (and use the fork trick), sandwiches with honey mustard vs. mayo, wraps without sour cream or dip, etc.


9. Order it with half the cheese: especially with Italian (pizza, pasta) or Mexican (burritos, taco salads, etc)

Cheese is a high-fat food, meaning a little adds up for big calories. Keep the flavor and texture, but skip the unwanted high fat content by asking for half the cheese at meals that use it as a condiment or topping


Restaurants do not necessarily have their consumers health in mind, they often have our taste buds as a top priority. Which means they use plenty of Reward Center items, dense in sugar fat and salt, on their menus. But by becoming a more savvy individual at ordering a healthy meal out, you can enjoy best of both worlds: a more enjoyable and sustainable long-term plan with food and the ability to skip the unwanted extra calories.


What are your favorite healthy restaurant meal tricks?

Written by Erika Brown

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