How To Cut Calories When Eating Out


Written By: Suzanne Kvilhaug

Nothing can ruin a streak of eating healthy like going out to a restaurant and ordering all the wrong things. Or overdoing it. 5 pieces of bread, scarfed down. 2 sodas, guzzled. Fried entree with a side of something fried, check. A dessert that feels like a block sitting in your stomach, not a bite left behind. If you’re concerned about calories, you need a whole lot of hands to count the number you’ve just consumed.

Some restaurants may be easier than others to eat healthy or stay within your desired range of calories but overall these guidelines can be helpful anywhere you go.

There’s an app for that

Well for starters, finding a restaurant that has healthy choices is the best way to set yourself up for success. HealthyOut is a popular app that helps diners find the best fit for food in their area based on their preselected nutrition preferences.

Don’t drink your calories

Certain drinks can have like 10-15 teaspoons of sugar, a lot of additives and more calories than you’d expect. Getting into the habit of ordering healthy drinks like water, unsweetened tea and coffee can make a huge difference. Liquid calories can be empty calories and that’s just not a game plan you want to execute. Bottomless water with a lemon = the best strategy you can bring to the table.

Anything fried is off limits

Flexibility is great because too many restrictions can backfire but sometimes rules come in handy. And nothing fried is a great rule to have. Fried foods tend to be really high in fat and calories. Plus deep frying can rob food of nutrients. And a lot of restaurants use partially hydrogenated oil which contain trans fats. So just skip over anything fried on the menu and act like it’s not even on the menu. Next!

Get a salad and make it your own

See the salad choices as a starting point then mix and match to end up with your perfect salad. It’s like a canvas and you’re the artist. If you don’t see an ideal healthy option, be determined to create it. Nix things like cheese, fatty meats, crotons and unhealthy dressings. More veggies and fruit here, switch the dressing there and so on.

Steer clear of anything creamy

If it’s creamy, it’ll sacrifice the dreamy. Repeat something like that (it’s the best I got!) to yourself so you remember it’s not in your best interest. Ordering items with ranch dressing, mayo, alfredo sauce, or butter don’t make the most sense if you are trying to eat healthy or cut calories.

Get smart with condiments   

Condiments can be deceiving and do more damage then you realize. If you prefer flavorful entrees, add herbs and spices to it. When choosing condiments, try for one ingredient choices like a simple hot sauce or oil and vinegar. Salsa is also a great healthy option that adds a lot of flavor. And if you really want to keep it healthy, squeezing fresh lemon and lime on certain salads and dishes can add more flavor than you realize.

Be creative

Don’t be shy when it comes to ordering. If the menu isn’t doing it for you, get creative and make it do something for you. Think of yourself as a chef giving the server a new dish idea that should be on the menu. Find ingredients that are healthy and most appealing to you and conjure up your own creation. You may need to order a bunch of healthy sides and make it a meal or make a lot of additions and subtractions but with enough gusto and creativity, your mission can be accomplished. You’ll walk out of the place feeling satisfied, healthy and maybe even with a new side gig of a healthy menu consultant.

Balance is key

“It’s all about balance” is a phrase used often when it comes to eating healthy. And how relevant it is when it comes to dining out. Assuming you’re not training to be in a fitness competition or have weight loss goals you must meet ASAP, balance can go a long way. The all or nothing approach has its place but being too rigid can make you miserable. And most people go out to eat for enjoyment so by working to achieve balance, you’ll feel content about your choices and happy with your experience. Examples of a balanced approach would be, if you’re eating a small meal that’s super healthy and you really want a piece of bread, have a piece of bread. If you want a meal that’s really filling, get it and put half in a to go box for another day. If you can’t stop eyeing an appetizer, order it and choose a small entree.

Don’t even look at the dessert menu

Unfortunately, many restaurants don’t have healthy dessert options. For someone trying to eat good, the best move is to avoid them completely.

Instead of flirting with temptation and reading about the double layer dream chocolate cake, ask if they have any healthy options. If they don’t and you’re adamant about having something sweet, have something like sorbet or a coffee drink minus the sweetner and add in a plant-based milk.