How to Stick to Your Diet While Eating Out

Two Parts:Planning AheadEnjoying Your Meal

Dieting, from low-fat/high protein to vegan, paleo to raw, is often defined by what it excludes rather than what it includes. Many phrases like “trimming the fat” and “you are what you eat” are not only catchy reminders, but are also about exercising control. Just because you are not preparing the food yourself does not mean that you cannot exercise control over what you eat and enjoy your meal out. There are many quick, simple, and easy steps that can help aid in adhering to your diet while still being able to be social and eat delicious food.

Part 1
Planning Ahead

  1. 1
    Have the right mindset. Whether you are trying to lose a few pounds, drastically change your lifestyle, or conform to new ways of eating, much of the difficulty of maintaining a diet is linked to sustainability.[1]
  2. 2
    Choose a restaurant most suited to your diet. This might seem obvious, but the more decisions you can make before arriving to the restaurant, the easier navigating the menu and ordering the best meal will be.
    • Try a steakhouse or sushi restaurant for high-quality protein with the option for vegetables.
    • Avoid restaurants whose main method of cooking involves frying or heavy oils.
    • Consider restaurants that offer tapas or small plates as opposed to an all-you-can-eat buffet.
  3. 3
    Make a reservation. Making a reservation will not only help limit last minute and potentially unhealthy/diet-breaking decisions, but will also reduce the amount of time spent waiting for a table.
    • Studies have shown that both the sight and smell of food spark the metabolic process, which lowers blood sugar and will make you even more hungry. One quick call can help make the difference between. [2]
  4. 4
    Become familiar with menu terminology. Many menus only list partial ingredients, often leaving out entire components or methods of preparation. Learning how ingredients are prepared will help guide you to make the most informed and healthy decision possible, and will also point you to questions that you can ask the waitstaff.[3]
    • Try and avoid foods that are “deep fried,” “crunchy,” or “crispy.”
    • Opt for steamed, grilled, or baked when possible.
    • Enlist the help of the waitstaff to see how your meal will be prepared and if exceptions can be made. Many restaurants are familiar with health conscious patrons who may have dietary restrictions.
  5. 5
    Read the menu before arriving at the restaurant. Reading the menu before you arrive will help deter snap decisions and impulse orders once you’re seated. Knowing what the restaurant has to offer before arriving will also provide the necessary information to decide whether the restaurant will be a good fit.[4]
  6. 6
    Eat a small, healthy snack before you go out. Curbing your appetite with a healthy snack will help keep items you are trying to avoid less tempting when it’s time to order. Drinking water before a meal can often give the same effect, and, of course, helps cut calories.

Part 2
Enjoying Your Meal

  1. 1
    Order first. Now that you’ve made it to the restaurant, it’s time to order that delicious and diet-conforming meal. If you haven’t scouted the menu before arriving, be sure to try and order first.
    • Ordering first can help skirt social stigma and pressure as well as making sure you’re eating exactly how you’d like to.[5]
  2. 2
    Share your food. Not only are ingredients important to keep in mind, but so is portion size. Many restaurants tend to serve portions that are too large for an individual and can often lead to excess caloric consumption.
    • Ask a friend to split an appetizer or entree.
    • Check with your server to see if it’s possible to order a half portion or if the portion is large enough to share (the answer is usually yes!).
  3. 3
    Say no to extras and sauces. The quicker temptation is put out of the way, the better. Start to develop a few ready-made answers and automatic policies for eating out at restaurants.[6]
    • Ask for salad dressing, sauces, and gravies on the side. Many of these sauces contain generous amounts of fats and sugars, and are difficult to remove once served. Having them on the side will allow you more moderation.
    • Make a habit of abstaining from all complimentary and “on-the-house” offerings like bread, crackers, and chips.[7]
    • Say no to dessert. Skipping dessert will help you save on unwanted calories. If others with you are ordering dessert, try a cup of coffee instead.[8]
  4. Image titled Fall Asleep with Insomnia at a Young Age Step 3
    Drink water. Another no-brainer, but one that is often over-looked. Drinking water throughout your meal will not only give you the many benefits of staying well hydrated, but also help in cutting excess and unwanted calories, sugars, and carbohydrates.[9]
    • Drinking soda or an alcoholic beverage may make you hungrier and increase your chances of coming off your diet.
    • If the temptation for a more flavorful drink strikes, try to order hot green tea (to optimize weight loss) without adding sugar, milk, or cream.
  5. Image titled Be Thorough in Your Oral Hygiene Routine Step 6
    Practice mindful eating. Chewing slowly and at intermediate intervals allows your food to digest and register in your stomach as "full" before you continue to eat. Chew about 20 times per bite, or until the food is fully dissolved.
  6. 6
    Be social. You’re out at a restaurant with friends, family, or colleagues! Take a break from eating and engage in conversation. Take a moment to listen – you’re not just there to eat!
  7. Image titled Stop Cursing Step 2
    Consider how this particular meal fits into your diet at large. Many diets will often emphasize how “the little choices” often amount to significant consequences. However, many studies find that not to be the case.[10]
    • It’s better to have a few bites of chocolate cake if it means you won’t eat an entire slice.
    • Remember, there are no unhealthy meals, only unhealthy diets and lifestyles!


  • Realize that you are at the restaurant to replace a normal meal that you would be eating at home and order accordingly.
  • Pay with cash in order to have a limit on how much food you can order and how much money you can spend eating out.
  • Do your research. Don’t always buy into “healthy,” “sugar-free,” and “natural” labels. Many restaurants will add extra sugar, salt, and fat to make the dish taste better.
  • Stay strong. Sticking to a diet can be difficult work, and is often not made easier by dining out with people who have fewer or different restrictions. Remember, visualize your rewards!

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Categories: Dining Out | Losing Weight