Dining Out on a Diet: a Simple Guide

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When you’ve got fitness or weight loss goals set in your sights, every decision you make throughout the day matters. How many steps you take, how much water you choose to drink and how many veggies you put on each plate, all help you move closer to – or further away from – your ultimate goals. This guide will cover some steps you can take to maintain your goals while dining out on a diet.

Whether you’re headed out to happy hour with coworkers, a dinner party with friends, or a big family meal, knowing how to feel comfortable making healthy decisions that don’t compromise your diet goals is essential. There are two important ways to look at dining out when you’ve got diet, health, or fitness goals. The first is making good decisions that help you stay on top of your nutrition while dining out on a diet. The second is how to make trade-offs to still enjoy those nights out.

In this article, we’ll discuss both viewpoints a little more.

Making Good Diet Decisions While Dining Out on a Diet

There are several things you can do to prepare yourself for a night out. The first step is knowing your calorie goal beforehand. It is also important to realize that one meal isn’t going to kill your results. In fact, if you have been dieting for some time without a cheat meal it may even help!

If you’re headed to a specific restaurant, you can look up their menu beforehand and give yourself an idea of the choices you’ll have to make. Going into the restaurant with a good idea of what you’ll order plus any changes you need to ask for will make the process a lot less stressful. A complete meal would be one with a lean protein, at least two vegetables and a healthy fat option.

ask for sauce on the side dining out on a diet

Once you’re at the restaurant, here are a few tips to make your meal a little lighter/healthier while dining out on a diet:

  • Ask for sauce on the side;
  • Skip anything fried;
  • Ask for no added salt;
  • Stick with a grilled, lean protein option;
  • Swap pasta or rice for a side of vegetables;
  • Ask for a lettuce wrap instead of bun or bread.

If it’s a party or dinner where you aren’t sure what will be served, do your best to make sure your nutrition during the day is the best it can be. Fill up on the good stuff early on so that the unknown at dinner doesn’t seem so scary. Remember to Making Trade-Offs so You Still Enjoy Your Meals

Food choice matters and so do calories when you’ve got diet goals to achieve, but that occasional night out isn’t going to make or break your progress. While it is important to do your best to make healthy choices while dining out, it is equally important to have a flexible attitude towards your meals.

If you’re constantly stressed about food choices or about eating out, chances are your quality of life is going to suffer because of it. Inflexibility leads to feelings of guilt or remorse when you, inevitably, make a less-than-healthy decision. It can also increase the chances of binge eating or yo-yo dieting, not to mention you probably won’t be able to fully enjoy the happy hour, dinner party, family dinner, etc if all you can do is focus on the food you can or cannot have.

Here are a few trade-offs you can make during the day so that you can let yourself off the hook a bit while dining out:

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  • Have a protein shake at lunch so that you’ve got some extra calories “in the bank” for dinner
  • Skip the fries, rice, or pasta so you can enjoy a slice of dessert instead
  • Instead of a calorie-packed salad (you know the ones I’m talking about!), opt for steamed vegetables so that you can also have a small side of fries.

Dining Out on a Diet Summary

At the end of the day, the choices you make day in and day out carry much more weight than the things you do once in a while – like having a night out. Use these tips to make healthy food-related decisions at a restaurant or party while dining out on a diet. Don’t forget to enjoy your choices as well. Both of those things are important not only for your continued progress but also for your psychological health.

Learning how to be flexible with food choices will help you make healthy eating a long-term commitment that you actually enjoy instead of a short-term “can’t wait until it’s over” diet.

One great tool to make easier food choices while dining out on a diet is Cronometer, check it out by clicking the link.

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In 2013 I attended TVCC with my studies focusing on nutrition and biology. After leaving TVCC I pursued a career in inbound marketing and have worked in many different industries including health and fitness, firearms, coaching, and many more. I spent 6 years training for powerlifting and 6 years after training for a bodybuilding show in Idaho, which sadly did not come to fruition.

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