Tips for Dining Out and Take Out

Like many of you, I love a good dining out and/or takeout night with family and friends! While these experiences may traditionally be high in calories and fat, there are many ways to make smart choices while still feeling satisfied. Takeout, especially, is a convenient way to save time, energy and a cleanup! Here are some ways to navigate dining out and/or takeout while sticking to your nutrition goals…because not EVERY meal out can be a splurge when focusing on weight control!

  • If you know where you’re going, look up the menu beforehand. Go in with a rough plan! 
  • If you want to estimate the calories or macronutrients of a meal that doesn’t have nutrition facts listed, look up a chain restaurant with similar cuisine. For example, if you’re going out for Chinese food, you can use the nutrition facts for PF Chang’s to get an idea of what you’re eating. 
  • Always be sure to have a snack before going out for a meal. Never show up hungry!
  • Limit fried foods and go for baked, broiled or grilled options when possible. 
  • Ask for sauces and/or dressings on the side and add appropriate amounts yourself. 
  • Consider asking for your food to be prepared with “less oil” or order it steamed. 
  • Choose your non-negotiable(s): that may be the bread basket, alcohol, appetizer(s), dessert. This can look different depending on where you’re going, who you’re with etc. 
  • Remember, you can have these foods again!


Cuisine-Specific Tips:

    • CHINESE: Opt for steamed protein (chicken, beef, tofu, shrimp) instead of fried to save on calories and fat. Opt for steamed vegetables or ask for them to be prepared with “light oil.” Ask for sauces on the side to control the amount you use. Enjoy your protein and vegetables with a small portion of brown rice, about the size of your fist ( ½ cup). 
    • JAPANESE/SUSHI: Choose a light appetizer(s). For example, miso soup is high in volume and low in calories. This will fill you up and help to control your portions and appetite for your main meal. Other healthy appetizers include edamame, seaweed salad or a green salad with ginger dressing on the side to control the amount you use. When ordering sushi, consider asking for your sushi rolls to be prepared with “light rice” or ditch the rice all together on at least one roll. You can also ask for your rolls to be made Naruto style (wrapped in cucumber instead of rice) or enjoy slices of sashimi. 
    • INDIAN: Avoid cream-based dishes (ie: Chicken Tikka Masala) and opt for tandoori chicken or fish instead. Tandoori proteins are marinated in yogurt with spices and either grilled or baked, maintaining flavor without all the added calories and fat. 
    • THAI: Instead of a noodle or rice-based dish, check out the “Wok Dishes” section. This will usually be some kind of stir-fry made with lean protein. You can even ask them to go light on the oil and stick to a small portion of rice, about the size of your fist ( ½ cup).
    • ITALIAN: Balance 1-2 slices of pizza out with a salad topped with lean protein and the dressing on the side. If thin crust pizza is an option, go for it to save on even more calories and carbohydrates. When eating pasta, stick to a sensible portion ( ½ – 1 cup cooked). Some restaurants will offer spiralized zucchini in place of pasta. Or, you can also ask for salad/vegetables instead of pasta. Remember, ask for all sauces on the side to control the amount you use.
    • MEDITERRANEAN– Opt for grilled protein (chicken, lamb, beef, fish) instead of fried to save on calories and fat. Ask for vegetable dishes and sides to be served with “light oil.” Many Mediterranean dips are low in calories in small portions, such as tzatziki and hummus. It is still important to practice portion control, as these calories can easily add up. When ordering appetizers with spreads, you can also ask for raw veggies instead of (or in addition to) pita bread. 
    • MEXICAN- If ordering chips and guacamole for the table to start, ask if they can bring raw vegetables instead of (or in addition to) chips to load up on fiber and better control your portions for the main meal. Contrary to popular belief, tacos can be a calorically-conscious option. One average street taco can range from 250-450 calories. Ask for sauces and condiments on the side to save on calories and fat. Opt for grilled protein (chicken, beef, fish) over fried. You may also consider fajitas, as the ingredients and toppings are often served separately to best control the amounts you use. Ask for your meal to be prepared with “light oil.”