Thursday, February 7, 2008

How To Lose Weight While Eating Out

In the comments on Tuesday's post (There's still time to vote in the poll!), AndrewE and Dona agreed that eating out has been their toughest challenge in the weight loss game so far. I've found that eating away from home doesn't have to mean a weight gain. Let me share some of my strategies so that you don't have reservations the next time someone suggests making reservations.

The first thing I do when I know we're going out to eat is hit the web. I look up the restaurant to see if they have a web site. If they do, I look for two things - their menu and nutritional information. Between those two things I can usually build my meal before we go, confident that I've already made good choices before I've even walked through the door.

If there's no web site, or more commonly, if it doesn't have the information you're looking for, try to keep to some safe choices. Grilled chicken, broiled fish and lean cuts of meat are all decent selections. Watch out for creamy sauces and dressings as well.

Try to time your visit to the restaurant so that you aren't ravenously hungry. If you have to, have a little snack before you leave to take the edge off. You don't want to go to the restaurant hungry for the same reason you don't want to go to the supermarket hungry - you'll overdo it and wind up with too much! This tip has helped me out more than once, especially if we ran into a long wait before we got seated.

Now that you're seated at the table, when your server asks what you'd like to drink, there's always at least one good answer - water. Preferably a tall glass of water. With plenty of refills. Just make sure you know where the rest rooms are!

And don't be shy, either. Be assertive when ordering. Order what you want, how you want it, even if it isn't necessarily on the menu. Warn the server ahead of time that you're going to be high maintenance and that it will be reflected in the tip.

One of my favorite tips is to remember to feed the doggie first. As soon as your food comes to the table, ask for a doggie bag and pack up half you meal before you take your first bite. Most restaurant portions these days are actually two, three, or more normal servings of food, so there's no reason not to make two or three meals out of your order.

Build a list of restaurants that you know you can handle. After a few trips you'll know what to order and what to avoid.

Take a more active role in deciding where to go out to eat. You may not always be able to sway your companions to go where you'd like, but as our parents always liked to remind us, "Life isn't fair!"

Remember that the more you eat out, the less your chances of posting a weight loss for the week. Giving up occasional control of your meals to someone else may be a treat, but who has your best, healthy interests in mind, you or Chef Pierre?

I really hope these tips are helpful to anyone who has experienced the same trepidation towards eating out that Andrewe and Dona have. Make sure to leave any of you own eating out tips in the comments!

The Count: Snooze = +32, Push-Ups = +38


AndrewE said...

Great tips! Thanks.

Kathy said...

I totally agree...those suggestions have saved me many times. I hate going to a new restaurant without being forewarned of what is on the menu. I develop total "diet amnesia" when I'm faced with those menus with the pretty pictures and mouth-watering descriptions of the food. I'm much better off making those decisions dispassionately at home and just setting the menu aside when I get to the restaurant.

I also have to beware of a few friends and family members who favor ordering those calorie laden appetizers for the table to share in. It's hard staring down a Blooming Onion and dip!

I always check out the appetizer and soups first...I find a lot of inspiration there in some restaurants...not so much in others.

Dona said...

Great ideas and I totally agree with you that the more you eat out the less "action" you'll see on your scales. Have a great weekend!

skinnybitch said...

Don't forget about the bread!
It seems like every restaurant I go to always feels compelled to offer white bread and butter at the start of every meal. I never touch the stuff - it's just a bunch of wasted calories. If I feel especially hungry, I might even ask the server to be sure *not* to bring a basket full of bread to the table. That way, I'm not even tempted, and I can "spend" my calories on foods that at least offer some decent nutrition.

Skinny Guy said...

The bread! You're right, Robin, that can run up the calorie count of a meal before you even get a chance to order. Good call.

TB--Milwaukee said...

I definitely know what I'm getting before I even go, it's the menu that ends up tempting me, so if I take that out of the equation I am fine.

More than eating out, social gatherings are what I have problems with. Guess that would have been under "other."

Dinah Soar said...

I chose eating out...and since my husband loves Chinese buffets, that's where we often end up...or Indian buffet. There is no nutritional info available because the restaurants are local and it's very hard to figure out the calorie/point count. I'd prefer the chain restaurants, but hubby likes the others better. In summer I like Subway...he doesn't. I could insist but don't because I've been on so many diets that didn't last long or when they did I ended up gaining the weight back and I imagine him thinking in his head "I'm sick of making concessions when she's just going to quit in a few days or gain the weight back"...I wouldn't blame him for thinking this way just think one more day of maintenance ...make that my goal...not to gain weight that day so I don't lose any ground....but hubby works a 4 day week...and often it is a 3 day week...when he is off we eat out almost every day...can't use saving money as an excuse not to eat out because the places we eat at are cheap, cheap, cheap.

I thought about choosing you, if I don't have the "right" foods on hand I run into the same problem you do....