Restaurants know the key to your heart—and your wallet—is through your stomach. And while yes, the food and drinks are delicious, they can set you way over in the amount of calories and fat you need for a day. A 2013 study by the University of Toronto found that the average restaurant meal clocks in at 1,128. And that’s not even counting the drinks! “When I go out, I usually order a vodka and club soda,” says Mark Langowski, celebrity trainer and author of Eat This, Not That! For Abs. That’s because Mark knows what a death trap so many of the other options are and how to eat healthy at restaurants. Between the seemingly-innocent starters to the sinful, oversized entreés, eating out really can explode into a nightmare for anyone trying to keep their waistline in check.
The good news is that you can still eat out without throwing a calorie bomb into your diet plan. You don’t have to be perfect—you just need to do a little damage control. All you need is a good game plan, which you’ll find below—and be sure to avoid The #1 Worst Menu Option at 40 Popular Restaurants once you get there!
First, Pick the Right Restaurant
Choosing one restaurant over another can make a bigger difference than you may suspect. Heed the advice below so you don’t set yourself up for failure before you even sit down.
Check The Menu Online
Most—if not all—popular restaurants now post their menus online. Take a quick peek at what they have to offer before you decide which restaurant is right for tonight’s meal. This has two benefits: You can see if they have any healthy options and then pre-plan your meal to avoid temptation. And if they have a lot of fattening, fried foods? Just move on to the next restaurant. But don’t just assume a delicious sounding salad is a sure win; even those can be loaded with more sugar than you’d ever expect. The 23 Restaurant Foods With Crazy-High Amounts of Sugar will blow your mind…
Go to Restaurants With a Low-Cal Menu
Restaurants know they have to change with the times, and these times call for healthy options alongside those creamy and fattening entrées. National chain restaurants now like Applebee’s now offer special lighter-fare menus (600 calories or less) for their more health-conscious customers. See our list of 25 Restaurant Meals Under 500 Calories for more specific ideas.
Opt for Upscale
If money’s not a concern, opt to go a bit fancier than your neighborhood grill and patronize one of the higher-end restaurants in your area. The reason: upscale restaurants tend to offer much smaller portions than chain restaurants, allowing you to indulge in some of the fancier fare in appropriate portions.
Being around delicious food is agonizing when you’re waiting for a table at a restaurant. Those tummy grumbles you hear tend to take over, making you more likely to fill up on a ton of food once you finally sit down to dine. Eliminate those temptations by making reservations ahead of time so you’re ensured a table when you arrive. That way you can stick to your plan without your desperate empty stomach influencing your decisions. Just don’t order these 25 Foods That Make You Hungrier!