Portion Control Tips for Dining Out

Dining out often poses a challenge for people struggling to lose and/or maintain a healthy weight. It’s no surprise that restaurants make it easy to unintentionally consume excess calories when faced with larger portion sizes and hidden calories (oils, butter, sauces, etc.). The good news is that you can still enjoy dining out without derailing your weight loss efforts by following a few simple strategies. Here are 5 portion control practices to help you enjoy your next dining experience without falling into your usual portion control pitfalls.

  1. Wear Form Fitting Clothes: Wearing a belt or an outfit with a waistband may help you to slow down while eating and recognize how you’re feeling during your meal. We’re not suggesting you squeeze into too tightly fitting pants, but consider a pair of jeans that you know will feel more snug as you become full, and see if this helps curb your intake next time you dine out.
  2. Make 1/2 Your Meal Vegetables: Vegetables are a great way to fill up on fiber, vitamins & minerals while keeping calories, sodium & saturated fat intake to a minimum. Request that restaurants prepare steamed vegetables with minimal sauces, oils & butter and consume in place of fries, creamed vegetables, dinner rolls, etc. Side salads with oil & vinegar and minimal non-vegetable toppings (ex: cheese, bacon bits, croutons, etc.) are also a good option.
  3. Drink Up: Water, that is. At least 16 ounces before your meal is recommended to help fill your belly, making you less likely to overeat. Additionally, because some symptoms of dehydration are also masked as hunger, improving your hydration status before you eat may actually help reduce misrepresented feelings of “hunger.”
  4. Split Your Meal with a Friend or Request a Lunch Portion: You’ll not only cut calories in half, but research suggests that you’re still likely to feel satisfied due to the smaller serving platter. Another option is to ask for half of your meal to be boxed up in advance if you are dining solo or there are no lunch portions available.
  5. Think Ahead: If you know ahead of time that you’re going to be dining out, plan to eat lighter at other meals during the day. Also, try and include some form of physical activity to offset hidden calories in restaurant dishes. Knowing nutrition information in advance can also make deciding on a healthier option less difficult, so check online menus for nutrition info ahead of time whenever able.