Your Guide To Eating Out While Dieting
It’s important when dieting to not put a halt on your social life just to avoid eating out and the extra calories it might bring. To help with this dilemma, here are some tips for when you want to go out and catch up with friends and family for a meal without going over your calorie target.
Look at the kilojoule levels on the menu
Back in November 2010, the NSW Parliament passed legislation requiring larger retail food outlets to display nutrition information on menus at point-of-sale. From 1 May 2018, Victorian followed suit and made it so fast food and supermarket chains were required to display the kilojoule content of ready-to-eat food and drinks on their menus and food tags. They will also need to show the average adult daily energy intake, which is 8,700kJ.
SIDE NOTE: To work out kilojoules into calories - divide the kilojoules by 4.2.
The average fast food meal may contain over half of the kilojoules needed for your day. Which means you may be eating far too many kilojoules without realising it. Kilojoule labelling has made it easier for consumers to make healthier food choices when eating out and taking away food and drinks.
But what is the right amount of kilojoules? My advice is always to stick to 1300-1400kj for a main meal. Next time you’re out and about just remember to choose anything that’s between those kilojoule levels and you won’t break the calorie budget!
Downsize your main meal
Most restaurants these days serve meals that are far too large for the average person - especially someone who is trying to lose weight. To combat this issue, consider ordering an entrée size main meal as well as a side of vegetables or salad. An easy way to get this balance is to have half your plate as vegetables (raw or cooked), a quarter of your plate a protein source, and a quarter of your plate as a healthy carbohydrate source such as potato, rice, or small dinner roll.
Sharing is caring
A great way to have your cake and eat it too is to share your meal. A study by Kruger J, Blanck HM & Gillespie C. (2008) showed that people who successfully lost weight and kept it off often shared food or ordered half a portion when eating out. It's a simple way to cut back on calories and prevent overeating.
If you have nobody to share with, you can ask the waiter to wrap up half of your meal for you to take home.
Read the menu before you go
If you fail to plan you plan to fail! A great tip for eating out is to check the menu before you go and pick the healthy options. You're more likely to make unhealthy choices when hungry, distracted, or there is peer pressure from others. Choosing before you go can eliminate that issue. Picking your food before you arrive makes it easier to avoid snap decisions that you might end up regretting later.
Watch for the wording
Preparation is everything! How the chef cooks your food can make or break your calorie budget. Look for words including "grilled", "broiled", or "steamed," meaning the food is cooked with less fat, and avoid dishes with descriptions such as "fried", "breaded", "crispy", "alfredo", "rich", or "creamy".
Ask for sauces or dressings on the side
Sauces and dressings can add a lot of extra fat and calories to a meal, so ask for your sauce on the side so you have control over how much goes on.
Drizzle it on with your fork and be sure not to put too much on. One tablespoon of oil-based salad dressing can have 80-100 calories! Another tip when ordering salads with a creamy dressing is to ask for no dressing and balsamic dressing on the side. Balsamic, French, or Italian based dressings have less calories than creamy ones.
Next time you go out for a meal evaluate how you managed your decisions – which strategies worked well, which not so much, and whether there were factors you didn’t account for. This will help in your planning for future dine outs. If you have overdone it, don’t stress! Just learn from the situation, pick yourself up and keep going on your journey to your goal!
Kruger J, Blanck HM, Gillespie C. Dietary practices, dining out behavior, and physical activity correlates of weight loss maintenance. Prev Chronic Dis. 2008;5(1):A11.