You can eat at a restaurant without blowing your clean eating
You sure as hell don’t keep the foods that tempt you in your home. But eating in a restaurant is a different story. Temptation is abso-freakin-lutely everywhere!
This is one of the biggest things that throws off my coaching clients. But take a deep breath before you start to panic about that big dinner out. You got this. Be social, enjoy yourself, and still eat clean. Just follow these following tips to eat at restaurants without undoing your clean eating.
Follow these tips for eating clean at a restaurant.
***And make sure to scroll all the way to the end. Because you’re going to get a FREE guide to ordering healthy at almost any restaurant! Chinese food? Italian food? Mexican food? No problem! You’ll learn all the tricks to ordering healthy at all different types of restaurants! Again, you’ll be able to download this at the end of the post.***
Look at the menu ahead of time and make a plan
If you know where you’ll be eating ahead of time, you’ve got a great head start. Look at the menu and come up with a meal plan. This is better than making decisions on impulse (especially if you feel a little bolder after a drink or two.) Make your food decision in advance and increase the chance that you’ll make good choices.
Schedule a snack before you go out
I know this probably sounds counter-intuitive. Why should you eat now, if you’re gonna have a big meal later? Because if you enter the restaurant with your stomach growling, the macaroni with extra cheese will be screaming your name. Just make it a healthy snack like vegetables with hummus, a handful of almonds, a cup of unsweetened yogurt or a few ounces of leftover chicken or turkey.
Handle the bread basket like a pro
The warm, soft bread will call your name while waiting to eat. So don’t tempt yourself if you don’t have to. Keep it off the table if others agree. Otherwise, give it back to the waiter once everyone else has gotten what they want. Or move it to the other side of the table. If you simply can’t resist, take a half a piece and nibble at it while everyone else eats theirs.
Look for the following words on the menu
There are certain words you’re looking for while trying to eat healthy in a restaurant. These are steamed, grilled and baked. These will be your best bet. And dishes served as entrees are better than those served over pasta or on bread. If you can’t find anything on the menu that matches this description, then ask for a modification. Which brings us to the next tip…
Feel free to ask for modifications
Don’t be scared to speak up because a restaurant will likely accommodate your requests! Ask for baked options instead of fried. Remove the fattening sauce and ask for your meal to be seasoned with olive oil and spices instead. Request steamed veggies instead of fries. Ask for the restaurant to serve a turkey burger on a bed of lettuce instead of the bun. Take what you see on the menu and transform it into something healthy.
Ditch the conventional salad dressing
A salad is often a healthier option in a restaurant. But your downfall might be the salad dressing. And you’re not safe with a low-fat “diet” salad dressing. These contain tremendously high amounts of sugar So do this instead. Combine olive oil and balsamic vinegar with just a touch of dijon mustard on the side makes a great, healthy salad dressing. Mix the olive oil and vinegar and then add in the mustard. Add a touch of table salt if desired. And voila! A much better salad dressing.
Ask for a to-go container at the time that your meal is served
You get so much good food at restaurant. However, you don’t want to overeat Leave a small amount of the tempting food on your plate and put the rest in the to-go container immediately. Get it off your plate and reserve it for take-out. You’ll now be much less likely to give in to the temptation to overeat.
A restaurant doesn’t have to be a challenge when making healthy diet changes.
You just need a game-plan for approaching the situation. It is possible to eat healthy in almost any restaurant. OK, maybe not the average burger joint or other fast food variety. But most other restaurants will be able to accommodate something that is healthy and diet friendly.
Your FREE Guide! Tricks to eating healthy at almost any restaurant!
So what about Italian food? Or Chinese food. Don’t forget about Mexican! Or how about eating healthy at a French restaurant. C’est impossible! But it is possible to eat healthy at all these restaurants and more! Download my FREE guide to choosing the healthiest menu options at all your favorite types of American and ethnic restaurants!
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Just remember these tips. And next time you go out for a night with the girls, you won’t panic all week about finding something diet appropriate. It will be easy. And the lack of stress will free you up to enjoy the evening and focus on more important things!
I always check the menu in advance of going out for a meal. I can then take my time and make healthy food choices. I tend to skip starters in order to accommodate a dessert. I like your tip about having a snack before going. It is safe to say, you are likely to have to wait for friends/family to arrive and then again for your food to be cooked.
For sure the wait can be long. Especially when a restaurant is busy. So you’re right that you don’t want to get too hungry!
Have personally never been on a diet but the same applies to when you have thyroid problems and a lot of food has a negative impact on you. Mind you, it’s almost impossible with thyroid problems not to make exceptions once in a while. If not, it would be impossible to go to dinner at friends houses. They would need to prepare special food for you and socializing with you would become so complicated only really close friends would make the effort.
It really is a challenge when you’re on a lifetime restrictive diet. I hear you because I can’t eat gluten (horrible skin reactions) so I understand the dilemma when going to see friends.
Much needed tips on how to eat at some of our favorite restaurants.
Bre Fowler says
Really awesome tips! I’m a vegetarian so I definitely always check the menu in advance, but I still have a weakness for that damn bread basket 😉 Especially love the tip about asking for a to-go box at the beginning of the meal to avoid overeating, my eyes are always bigger than my stomach!
I know! The bread really is so tempting. I can’t eat gluten so I can’t even think about it anymore. But if I could eat it, I would just need to not look at it.
anne @onedeterminedlife says
The hardest part of healthy living is going to a restaurant. These are great tips.
I always look at the menu beforehand. I get to dream about what I want to eat. It actually does help for making healthier choices too.
It really is fun to think about what you’re going to order!
great tips. i don’t like eating out much mostly because everything tastes better made at home but my coaching clients typically freeze up and are terrified of going out to eat. these are the same things i share with them and i’m so happy to now share your post with them. thanks for the share!
William Rusho says
These are some wonderful tips.
I must admit, since I have been on a diet, I do not eat out at all.
The food served at restaurants cannot meet my dietary needs. On the plus side, I have saved some money eating only at home.
RoseMary Griffith says
Very good tips!
USA portion sizes make me crazy. I try to pre-portion by cutting it in half and eating off one side of my plate–same idea as the go box, but I have some friends who don’t like to see the box on the table until we’re done eating. Different strokes. I love ravioli, but know if I order it, I’ll have the gluten issue and need to go for a really big walk afterwards.
Doreen Pendgracs says
Great post, Erica, and I am proud to say that I follow pretty much every one of your tips. As a travel writer, I have the pleasure and challenge of eating out often when I am away from home. I make a very conscious effort of ordering healthy options as the pounds very quickly pack on if we let our guard down.
Marquita Herald says
Excellent advice. I especially like your points about previewing the menu and having a snack before going out. Many restaurants post their menus online these days so that makes it much easier to plan ahead. And as for a snack, I find that tips to also be useful before I go grocery shopping. It’s much easier to stick to my list if I’m not hungry.
Jessi Joachim says
Staying on track at a restaurant is so hard! Looking at the menu before hand really does help though. I always tried to avoid eating out if I was doing something strict, but lately I just do it all in moderation.
Robin rue says
Ugh! I am so weak when I go out to eat. I need to do better, but it’s soooo hard with all that good food in front of me.
These are really good tips. My mom will eat beforehand and then just order something small like a side salad or something. People seem to not like it when you go out to eat and don’t order anything haha. I personally have a hard time keeping away from the bread basket!
Joanna @ Everyday Made Fresh says
We don’t eat out much, so when we do, I never diet or eat clean. I look at those as my days to cheat. However, we always check the menu beforehand because our daughter has food allergies.
Terri Steffes says
I feel like the bread basket is my test. If I can get past the bread basket, I win! Everything else seems easy.
This is great because I’ve been thinking of going on a clean eating diet while starting my new workout. Great tips and helpful info so that the diet isn’t blown and have to start all over!!
These are really great tips. I love the idea of previewing the menu (Maybe when you aren’t hungry so you aren’t tempted by the more unhealthy options) and I love keeping the bread basket off the table. Thanks so much for sharing <3
Dawn McAlexander says
I have learned that a lot of restaurants have a little legend or key that tells what all the symbols stand for on the menu and you can use that to find a low calorie option. Some restaurants even list the calories in their dishes right out beside the dish on the menu, which is really helpful!
Cindy Ingalls says
Such great advice. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice dining out just because you are on a diet. If you prepare before you go out, you can still enjoy the food and the company.
Blythe Alpern says
I started skipping the low-fat or fat-free dressing years ago after my nutritionist told me how much sugar was in those versions. Now I just ask for dressing on the side. I love eating out and when I do I try to look for healthier places. I just feel better when I don’t eat junk.
Aish Das-Padihari says
I usually don’t eat out much – just occasionally and when I do, I don’t watch. I actually enjoy a nice lunch/dinner with drinks and dessert. For me, eating out is a treat.
Having a small snack is a great idea! That way you are stuffing your face with appetizers and being full before your meal comes.
During my tour of duty in the Crescent City I from time to time patronized a Chinese restaurant called China Orchid at which I sometimes had a River Shang Pork entrée that was a miniature mountain of food, easily enough for two (maybe three) people. I always cleaned my plate like a good boy but in retrospect I should have divided the meal in two, putting half in a to-go container, per your recommendation.
Theses are really great tips for eating out. I had to do this when I was pregnant and had gestational diabetes.
Awesome post! I was just chatting with my sister about this topic. Staying on goal while eating out is so important.
Eating a snack before you go to a restaurant is a great idea. I tend to over order because everything sounds so good. Which then leads to over eating. If I really am thinking about it, I will portion out my dish right away and ask for a box. I also ALWAYS order water when I am out. Not only is it free, but it is the best beverage for you.
These are some really good tips!! I luckily don’t have to worry about that haha, but the to-go container at the beginning is really awesome for people working on portion control.
My husband implemented these ideas for a year and they completely transformed him. Very good advice and they work really well.
These are great tips! It’s always a restaurant where I decide it’s okay to fully slip on my diet!
Yona Williams says
I always look at a menu before I go to a restaurant to plan what I’m going to eat. That way, I won’t be disappointed or surprised at the menu selection or flat out can’t find anything that fits my diet criteria.
Staying on goal, when out id very vital! I did not follow the rule last time when I went on a vacation and hence still have some holiday weight put on 🙁
Will implement it!
Scheduling a snack in advance is a great idea. When you get to the restaurant, you won’t be as famished and are less likely to eat everything in sight.
Jen Monks says
That freakin’ bread basket can be the death of my clean eating! I do try to eat a snack before dining out. Thanks for the additional suggestions. Very helpful.
Carol Cassara says
A lot of restaurants adjust to their customers dietary needs. It’s so much easier to follow a diet now than before. These are great tips! I’ve tried most of them.
Tara Holland says
These are great tips. I have such a weakness with food, I usually just don’t go out to eat at all when I’m trying to be good.