MealEnders Blog

5 Tips for Eating Healthy at Restaurants

Avoiding Sneaky Calorie Traps

By MealEnders
December 31, 2014

Americans are increasingly spending more of their food money on eating out. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service, nearly ⅓ of every dollar in the United States spent on food in 2012 went towards food eaten outside of the home. So having a few tips for eating healthy at restaurants is becoming more and more important for achieving a healthy lifestyle.

In a recent New York Times article, writers compiled a series of meals from a variety of fast food and higher-end chain restaurants that totaled 2,000 calories, the average number of calories adults should be eating on a daily basis. Included in the post were photos of the meals to help readers visualize just how easy it might be to eat a day’s worth of calories in one sitting.

For example, a single entrée at the Cheesecake factory, the farfalle with chicken dish, tipped the scales at a whopping 2,370 calories.

One of the best ways to avoid falling falling victim to these calorie traps is to eat at home. Home-cooked meals are encouraged by nutritionists, writers, doctors and chefs to encourage more healthful diets. To demonstrate how much healthier home-cooked meals are, writers of the New York Times article commissioned James Briscione, the director of culinary development at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York, to prepare a day’s worth of home cooked meals totaling 2,000 calories without skimping on all of the desirable components, like meat, eggs, cheese, alcohol or dessert. The day’s worth of food, below, comes out to only 2,077 calories!

Tips for eating healthy at restaurants

© NY Times

Unfortunately, home-prepared meals take time and skills that many of us don’t have. And sometimes we can’t avoid having a meal out when we are traveling or working. But eating out doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice your health goals. Walk into the restaurant with a
weight loss mindset and enjoy your dinner without getting thrown off track. Here are five tips for eating healthy at restaurants to help you avoid common calorie traps.

1) Look at the menu ahead of time. Before heading out the door, take a look at the menu online. Preferably, do this at a time when you aren’t hungry. This will allow you to consider your health goals as you decide what to order.

2) Check the calorie count of your meal. Chain restaurants are required to provide nutrition information for all meals served. Look for an entrée or meal that is between 700-1,000 calories. This is one of the best eating out tips since it allows you to really understand how much you will be consuming during your meal.

3) Tell your friends ahead of time what you are planning to order. After looking at the menu online, text or call your friends and let them know what you are planning to order. This way they can keep you accountable once you arrive hungry at the restaurant. Being hungry makes us susceptible to choosing higher calorie options, but with diet teamwork you can stay on track.

4) Order what you want and eat only half of it. This is a useful tip for days when you want to treat yourself to something a little more rich and decadent.  Prevent yourself from overeating by portioning out half of the meal before you dive in. Ask for a to-go container immediately when you order at a sit-down or service-style restaurant, or split your portion in half immediately when you are ordering to-go.

5) Have a MealEnder at the end of your pre-portioned meal. Having something sweet at the end of your meal may help you feel more satisfied and encourage your natural satiety cues to kick in. This will prevent you from ordering more or diving into your second serving.


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