How to Eat Smart When Eating Out


Everyone has their “go to” restaurants, right? Since I started dating my boyfriend, I’ve definitely been going out to eat more than I would solo. We like to try new places every so often, but we do have our favorites. What do you order when you keep going back to the same place? Do you try something new every time or stick with what you know you like? What do you do if the food isn’t the healthiest? I’ve been trying to watch my calorie intake, so eating out is definitely tricky, but I’ve started to work out a system.

A couple of our favorite restaurants are Carrabba’s, Outback Steakhouse, Dewey’s Pizza, and Abuelo’s Mexican Restaurant. You can expect us at one of these four places maybe once a week (I’ve been trying to get better at switching it up though.) Because we frequent them so much, I’ve started analyzing the menu and pre-planning what I’m going to order.

Based on the nutrition facts (and if I’m not feeling super adventurous), this is what I’ll normally order:

Carrabba’s (menu with nutrition facts available here)
Wood-Grilled Tilapia: 312 calories, 13g fat, 9g carbs, 7g sugar, 45g protein
I’ll usually get a vegetable as a side (but occasionally I’ll treat myself to the garlic mashed potatoes, which are significantly less healthy).
Caesar Side Salad: 350 calories, 30g fat, 8g carbs, 2g sugar, 11g protein

Outback Steakhouse (menu with nutrition facts available here)
Grilled Chicken on the Barbie: 312 calories, 4g fat, 11g carbs, 10g sugar, 57g protein
My sides are usually fresh steamed broccoli (and maybe garlic mashed potatoes).
Not the healthiest but I also enjoy
Baked Potato Soup, bowl: 458 calories, 30g fat, 38g carbs, 5g sugar, 9g protein

Dewey’s Pizza (menu with nutrition facts available here)
If I really feel like eating pizza, I’ll get
13” Hawaiian Pizza: 2 slices, 480 calories, 17g fat, 55g carbs, 27g protein
or
13” Meatball Pizza: 2 slices, 482 calories, 21g fat, 52g carbs, 22g protein
If I want to be healthy I’ll order a salad
Side Caesar Salad: 418 calories, 33g fat, 8g carbs, 10.5g protein

Abuelo’s Mexican Restaurant (nutrition facts from MyFitnessPal available here)
Chicken Taco (with shell, lettuce, cheese, and sour cream): 1 taco, 137 calories, 5g fat, 14g carbs, 5g protein
I’ll usually eat a 2-3 of these, plus Mexican rice as a side.

I’m not suggesting you need to order what I prefer, but here are some other helpful hints when eating out at a restaurant:

  • If they put bread or chips on your table, try to restrain or limit yourself. Don’t ask them for more when it’s empty. That will fill you up and then you may not be able to finish your meal.
  • Appetizers are great for portion control. I frequently order off the starter menu for my meal.
  • Most restaurants offer a seasonal vegetable as a side, so opt for those instead of French fries or onion rings.
  • Ignore dishes on the menu that use the words “creamy” or “cheesy”. They might be delicious but they will have a lot of calories and fat.
  • Grilled foods are healthier than fried foods.
  • Avoid “all you can eat” buffets. You probably won’t eat more than you normally do, but there is a higher chance that you will overeat.
  • If you go to a place with larger portion sizes, consider splitting or sharing meals with your group.
  • Never be afraid to ask for a box. That way, you’ll have another meal for tomorrow!

My questions for you, the reader: How frequently do you go out to eat? Do you follow "rules" when you're looking over the menu? Do you have any other tips for eating out? I'd love to know, leave me a comment!

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