12 Nutritionist-Approved Tips for Dining Out

Find out how health experts navigate eating at restaurants.

12 Nutritionist-Approved Tips for Dining Out

When you’re trying to slim down and stick to a healthy eating plan, a restaurant visit can seem unnerving, threatening to derail your latest weight loss efforts. You don’t need to ditch restaurant meals until you’ve hit your goal weight, just learn how to prepare for these higher-calorie foods and the best ways to enjoy indulgences as part of your diet plan. Here, nutrition experts share the tips they practice when eating out. “Going out to dinner is part of everyday life,” says Miami-based Marina Chaparro, R.D.N., Clinical Dietitian & Certified Diabetes Educator, National Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “You shouldn’t be afraid of going out to dinner for fear of gaining weight. Learn how to order at a restaurant and plan ahead. The more you know about the restaurant or cuisine, the better choices you can make,” she adds.

More: 10 Foods a Nutritionist Never Eats

Don't Beat Yourself Up

Nutritionists suggest not starving yourself the day you’re going out to eat and not to skimp the next day, either. Don’t say, ‘I overate last night. I'm not eating today,’ says Stollman. “It backfires. We know this can cause you to binge later on. You're much better off getting up and having a healthy breakfast. It can be small if you’re still full,” she says. “We don't gain weight from one big meal. That's a fallacy. It's meal after meal, day after day. It's not just one meal or one vacation. It's habits. It's eating a lot at night, and snacking while watching TV every night, not from one night out,” Stollman says. So enjoy your restaurant meals, don’t feel guilty about them, and keep your healthy eating habits in check the rest of the week.

More: 5 Oz-Approved 100-Calorie Snacks

Q: I end up overeating because it makes me feel better and I never really get full. I'd like to lose weight but this makes it hard. Any suggestions?

A: Being persistently hungry can cause big trouble. So can overeating for comfort/pleasure. These two behaviors, say researchers from Baylor University's Children's Nutrition Research Center, are controlled deep within your brain by serotonin-producing neurons, but operate separately from each other — one in the hypothalamus, the other in the midbrain. They both can, however, end up fueling poor nutritional choices and obesity.

Eating for Hunger

When hunger is your motive for eating, the question is: "Does your body know when you've had enough?" Well, if you are overweight, obese or have diabetes you may develop leptin resistance and your "I am full" hormone, leptin, can't do its job. The hormone's signal to your hypothalamus is dampened, and you keep eating.

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