How am I supposed to eat out AND follow a reasonable weight loss plan?

Ben Dearman

KDR Fitness


There is a disconnect in how mainstream nutrition information is served to us, (i.e. how we are supposed/told to eat to pursue weight loss and/or health) vs. how food is served to us, (i.e. portion sizes and food choices). (endorsed by the USDA) shows a “plate” of ideal serving sizes.  In order of importance:

  • Veggies
  • Grains
  • Fruits
  • Protein
  • Dairy


Mainstream weight loss advice would tend to go towards this approach:

  • Protein
  • Veggies/fruit
  • Grains
  • Dairy

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However, restaurants generally serve meals that place the emphasis on:

  • Grains
  • Protein
  • Veggies


So much confusion!  But, to be fair, who wants to pay $20 for a plate that is 2/3 veggies?  Weight loss (on paper) is a simple math equation

calories consumed – calories burned = a negative number that is approximately 10% more the you consumed.

Consume 2000 – burn 2200 = a 10% deficit.

If following that model of eat less then you burn, the real problem with eating out is portion size.

The serving sizes restaurants use are generally WAY too big as well as the fat medium they use to cook with.  I grew up in the restaurant biz and went to the Culinary Institute of America – the take home point is FAT = FLAVOR.  There is a reason why your broccoli tends to be over cooked but you eat it anyway…because it’s loaded with butter!

Before I get started, here are two secrets to weight loss:

  1. Prep your foods.
  2. Cook everything you eat.

So, here are some tips to help you lose weight when you eat out:

  1. Get it to go – order a to go box when you order your meal.  When your meal comes, put half the order in the to go box.plasticContainersCTGY
  2. Skip the bread/chips/whatever – Yes…I know it’s good. Especially Molly’s butter or Gusanoz’s chips and salsa.  BUT…you don’t need me to tell you not to eat that stuff if your trying to lose weight.  Remember 1 TB of butter is 120 calories, and it’s very easy to load up on butter on a delicious roll.  One way to have your roll and eat it too, is to have it for dessert.  The restaurant doesn’t care (the server might) if you have the rolls before dinner or after ward, at the worse you take up seats, at the best you order more cocktails.Gusanoz Mexican Restaurant Impossible
  3. But don’t do that…order more cocktails. There is a HUGE cascade of hormonal events that happen in your body when you consume alcohol.  The big take home point of that is – when alcohol is present in your body, your body will CEASE burning calories from other foods and will focus almost exclusively on burning the alcohol off.  That means the food you are eating with the alcohol is more likely to be stored as fat.
  4. If you do order cocktails – stick with clear liquors mixed with LOTS of club soda and lime. The lime will help with digestion and the club soda helps with not only the volume of booze consumed (keeping it in check) but also hydration.  Clear liquor over dark because, generally speaking, there are less calories in clear liquor and less impurities. LimeVodkaSoda
  5. Order TWICE the veggies and tell them you want them cooked in water or (if possible) broth. Yes…some restaurants will have broth (often home made) available to steam their veggies in, to add liquid to a dish with out diluting flavor and to use in sauces or gravies.  No broth?  Steam them with just water and ask for butter.  YOU put the butter on, not the chef.
  6. Eat your food in this order – protein and veggies first – THEN everything else. Including rolls or chips.
  7. Never order dessert…unless it’s your birthday. Then order some…but share.
  8. Once you are full – cover your plate up. The sight of food often will lead to mindless eating.
  9. Tables are filthy! TableUse that to your advantage.  Put your hamburger roll on the table, wipe half your fries onto the table, dump the rolls on the table, etc.  For us – if it touches the table, it’s off limits and there is no way we will touch it.  Just clean up after your self!
  10. Take 20 minutes to eat your meal and get up to go to the bathroom once while you eat. The 20 minutes will help you identify when you are satiated, the getting up to walk around helps delay how long you eat helping you to get to 20 minutes.
  11. When the server comes back to check on how your meal was, order the bill after you order any more items you want. This will help cut down on the amount of time you spend in the restaurant and help to prevent you from over eating and over ordering.2b7c69cedd7e157791c2c97275fb850d73ef8080a287af5848d71ab001db2268
  12. Split a meal when possible! This is probably the best thing to do if you are with someone that will do it with you.  Here’s a rule of thumb:
    1. Two dudes = split the meal and order an appetizer to split.
    2. Couple of same body size = split the meal and you each order a large salad (see below).
    3. Couple male bigger then female by at least 20 lbs – split the meal, male orders a large salad, female order a small salad.
  13. SALADS! The deceivers of eating out.  Salads SHOULD be low in calories, but it’s the dressing that kills it with usually around 120 calories per TB and up to 4 TB on a salad…that’s ALL the calories some people should have at a meal.  Never order house dressing, always order either balsamic vinegar or extra virgin olive oil and vinegar.  A drizzle of each will go along way.  I also like to salt and pepper my salads.  It’s always better to under dressing then over dressing.
    Get some meat on it. Worse case scenario you have more dinner left overs, best case scenario you don’t order dinner.
  15. Remember the 90% rule – stay on track 90% of the time and you can indulge your self 10% of the time. That means, enjoy a nice dinner out if you deserve it!

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