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

Speak Up

Don't be afraid to ask the waiter how the dish is prepared, says Chaparro. You might find out that your fish and veggies are sautéed with several tablespoons of butter and served with a cream sauce drizzled on top. “Knowledge is power when it comes to making healthier decisions,” says Chaparro. You can also ask for substitutions. Stollman says she’ll ask a server to hold a creamy dressing or sauce for lemon and olive oil on the side. Just tell the server, ‘Please don’t add oil and salt and I'll tell you if we need it,’ suggests Delbridge. “I always ask for sauce or dressing on the side because if it's in dish or salad, I have no idea how much they've added. Chances are, chefs aren’t measuring out two tablespoons of dressing for a serving size,” he says. Our experts also suggest asking for your dish to be halved and put in a to-go container in order to save calories from the oversized portions.

More: 6 Secrets to Eating Less and Feeling Full

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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