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Eat out and still lose weight

It can be difficult to stay on track when eating out at restaurants, cafes, etc. There's often a range of unhealthy food options available, which can lead to poor food choices.

But recently it became compulsory for most larger restaurants, cafes and takeaways to put calories on menus. This makes it easier for you to make healthy choices.

We've listed some tips to keep in mind the next time you eat out to try to stay on track for your weight loss target. You may like to use some of these ideas when thinking about a 'plan of action' for the coming week. 

Tips for eating out

Plan your meal choices in advance

Almost all restaurants have their menus available on their website. So you can find out what options are available before you go.

Take a few moments to read and select a healthy option for each course (starter, main, dessert).

If you have the option to pre-order before you go, even better. That way temptation cannot change your mind when you arrive!


Keep dressings and sauces on the side

Often sauces and dressings are high in fats, salts and sugars. You may be able to ask have the dressing or sauce that accompanies your dish served on the side instead.

Dipping your food into the sauce will be healthier than drenching your food in it.


Don't be afraid to ask for changes to your dishes

The kitchen can usually make changes to parts of meals for you to make them healthier. You don't always have to stick with food as per the menu description.

For example, you could ask to have cheese removed from your burger, or a garden salad instead of chips or crisps.


Don't assume salads are the healthiest option

Salads that only include vegetables and fruits like lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and onion, are a healthy option. They're also a sure way to help towards your 5-a-day.

But beware: some salads have high fat or calorie dressings, or high calorie toppings.

For example, a salad might contain cheese, bacon bits, fried or breaded chicken or prawns. Sometimes a salad can be as unhealthy as a burger.


Don't fall at the last course

A dessert can be enjoyable at the end of a meal, and if eaten once in a while, will not ruin your weight loss journey.

If you choose to have a dessert, remember that not all desserts are the same when it comes to calories.

Think about ways you can make your dessert choice a healthier one. Could you share a dessert with someone, or ask to take half home if it's a large portion?

You could also pick a healthy dessert option such as sorbet or fruit salad.


Be aware of portion distortion

If you're on a weight loss journey, you may have learned about and be exercising good portion control.

When you eat at home you are in control of your portions, yet when eating out, you may lose some of that control.

Almost always restaurants, cafes, etc allow you to take any leftover food home, so you can eat it at another time.


Choose side orders wisely

Once you have selected your main course, there is often an array of extra side orders to choose from.

Fries, coleslaw, mashed potato, the list is endless. Chips or potatoes? Salad or garlic bread? You may consider skipping a side altogether.

If you do opt for one, consider choosing ones that are lower in fats or cooked in healthier ways. For example, boiled potatoes or a salad with the dressing on the side.


How many courses?

Are you ordering from a set menu or do you have the option to choose two courses or even just a main?

If the option is a two-course menu, choose whether it may work best for you to order a starter and main meal instead of a main meal and a dessert.


Limit your alcohol

An alcoholic drink with your meal may not ruin your weight loss plan. But these drinks do often contain high calorie levels.

Moderation and making the right choices are key. Steer clear of sugar or cream-based cocktails. Order drinks with options of 'slim-line' tonics or diet mixers instead.

You could also order yourself a non-alcoholic sparkling drink. Keeping yourself hydrated with water can help you to avoid a common mistake of confusing thirst with hunger.

If you're interested in your drinking habits, take our alcohol quiz.


Danger words

The words used to describe your meal can tell us a lot about the calorie content and how healthy that meal may be too.

If you see words such as deep fried, cream-based, or breaded, then to stay on track with your weight loss, these meals are best avoided.

See our advice on understanding menu descriptions.


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