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Dining Out While on the Plan

by Victoria Frosini, M.S.

You’ve been successfully humming along for the last few weeks! New Year’s goals keep you motivated, endorphins are high, and you’ve been sticking to the plan. As the end of January rolls around, life starts to get busy again.


Statistically speaking, many people start to fall off their diet and exercise plans right about now, so you’re not alone!  Work, kids, your schedule… you find yourself eating out more often, and you’re worried you may fall off the wagon.


Don’t fret! We’re here to guide you through eating ‘on the go’ when life gets busy!

1. When eating out, build your meal around a lean protein.


Did you know items exist off the traditional dining menu? When a meal sounds layered or complex (or let’s be honest-- a little indulgent), opt to order a “naked” protein. Most restaurants offer a grilled protein free of sauce and additional condiments. Always eyeball your protein source (3 - 4 ounces) and don’t be afraid to ask the waitstaff about portion sizes and cooking preparation.


2. The sum of side dishes can substitute for a complete meal.


When the dining menu offers a la carte options, utilize this as an opportunity to stock up on fresh veggies and simply prepared carbohydrate and protein sources. Sometimes a complete meal can come from a combination of different options on the menu. For example, you can order shrimp cocktail from the appetizer menu and choose one or two side vegetables/carbohydrate sources and you’re all set!


3. Stick to eating every 3.5 - 4.5 hours.


You’ll avoid arriving to dinner famished! When you fuel your body throughout the day, you’re more likely to make healthy choices along the way.


4. Simple side salads can be your friend!


Although many restaurant salads are loaded with calories from dressing, crunchy toppings, and unrealistic portion sizes, a simple dinner salad can help you achieve your daily goals for vitamins and minerals. The bonus-- when eaten slowly, a fiber-filled salad will leave you feeling satisfied; just remember dressing on the side!


5. Check menus before you leave the house.


Call ahead to see if your restaurant of choice can accommodate for dietary restrictions. As nutrition education evolves, restaurants are becoming more conscious of healthy eating practices and allergies. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions-- it pays off!

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