10 Tips for Cutting Calories While Eating Out | Nutrition Strategies

10 Tips for Cutting Calories While Eating Out | Nutrition Strategies

When you’re trying to lose weight, eating out can be a minefield! Especially when many popular chains make claims that their food provides “fresh, simple, ingredients”. If you didn’t know any better you’d easily think you

were being “healthy” ordering something like Applebee’s pecan-crusted chicken salad. But if you’re smart enough to be flexible dieting, then with one quick search in My Fitness Pal, you’ll discover that this salad amounts to a whopping 1,320 calories, with 112g of carbohydrates, 78g of fat and just 47g of protein!

To put it into perspective, for a woman with a goal weight of 120 lbs. – let’s call her Jane – this salad contains almost twice the amount of fat and close to Jane’s entire daily requirement for carbs to support her goal weight. In just one sitting, Jane would be satisfying her entire daily caloric needs, doubling her body’s requirement for fat and only getting half the amount of protein needed to support her lean body mass. I know what you’re thinking, “I thought salads were healthy?!” Well think again! You’d be better off eating a Big Mac than a lot of salads out there.

    Jane’s Daily Needs              Macros for Applebee’s Salad
Carbohydrates 132g 112g
Protein 96g 47g
Fat 45g 78g
Calories 1,320 1,320

The truth is, a lot of meals at popular restaurant chains can easily add up to 2,000 calories, check out this article on what some of those meals look like. Not only are we fooled by the idea of “healthy” meals, but size can really be deceptive too! A single beverage at Sonic Drive-in can cost you 1,940 calories!

Peanut Butter Fudge Shake at Sonic – Calories 1,960; Carbohydrates 193g; Fat 122g; Protein 30g

As you can see, it’s important to be wary of the extra fat and sugar hidden between your lettuce leaves! If you struggle with weight loss, you might need to consider the amount you’re eating out and reassessing what you perceive as healthy or unhealthy. Too much food, whether it’s better quality food or not, is not considered “healthy” for our bodies when it throws our macronutrient needs out of balance. Not only will this kind of unbalance cause you to gain weight, but it can lead to a whole host of other health issues like insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, hypertension  and hormone deregulation.

Being mindful of getting the right amount of calories for your body is a good place to start, but counting calories is not enough. There’s only so much progress you can make with your weight loss and health if you’re not subscribing to the flexible eating method & tracking your macronutrients. The beauty of flexible dieting is that it gives you the freedom to enjoy any meal out! Just so long as it fits your macros.

Even if you already have our prescription and macro calculation, you still need to know how to go about your life and successfully hit these numbers. Knowing your destination is one thing, but where would we be without maps or GPS systems? Stuck in traffic, taking the long way round or going the wrong direction is where! That’s where Jason & I come in to play. We’ve been there, we’ve navigated these roads many times and we’ve figured out the most successful nutrition strategies journal. We want to help you do the same!

So we’re here to teach you that eating out doesn’t have to be a scary and daunting process. It doesn’t have to be a constant set-back on your weight loss journey. Of course it’s a big help if the restaurant you’re at has its nutrition information in My Fitness Pal, but whether your meal is in the app or not, you’ll want to make sure you take these tips into consideration for your next breakfast, lunch or dinner out on the town.

These tips are a combination of things we’ve figured based on our experience with eating out as well as getting the inside scoop from a restauranteur. So listen up!

10 Tips for Cutting Calories While Eating Out

1. Order all fat sources on the side

The kitchen is generally heavy handed with these. Dressings, sauces, cheeses, oils, condiments, etc.

2. Order eggs & meat “dry”

If you want to avoid any added fat from lots of oil and butter make sure you order your eggs & meat dry! If you order an omelet with veggies (especially spinach) you can be quite sure they used at least a tablespoon of oil or butter to cook or wilt the veggies. Many restaurants also dip, brush, or baste meats in oil or butter after cooking.

3. Order fish and meat grilled or steamed.

These are the only preparations that generally have no added fats or calories. Most restaurants are happy to provide this option even if it isn’t stated on their menu.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

I’ve asked plenty of servers questions about the size/weight of the portion of protein I’m interested in ordering & I usually get a satisfying answer. Most good servers are happy to oblige & refer to the kitchen or chef if they don’t know the answer.You can also ask the server or manager when you first arrive whether they have a copy of the nutritional information for their menu.

5. Eat with your eyes

If you’re the kind of person who can’t leave a morsel of food on their plate then order a half-size or appetizer side for your main course. If you’re at a fast food joint then order the kids meal. Whether its fine dining or fast food, most entrees or individual dishes contain enough macronutrients to satisfy two people! You could also ask for your server to bring a doggie bag and a small plate with your meal so you can save half of your meal right away for later and then enjoy the rest of your meal on a smaller plate – a lot of restaurants purposefully serve their meals on oversized plates to give the appearance of less food, so that you will continue to order more. Restaurants have caught on to the psychology of eating and the fact that we eat more with our eyes than our stomach!

6. Know your quantities

The little ramekins that dressings and sauces come in are usually 2oz or 60g.

Small syrup or cream pourers typically hold 3oz or 90g.

7. Vegetables

When it comes to potatoes, unless they’re baked you can assume they’ve got lots of butter or other fat added.The same usually goes for any sides of vegetables unless they’ve been steamed. If you want to be sure your veggies aren’t loaded with butter or oil, let your server know that you want them plain.

8. Keep it simple

Unless it’s a special occasion like your birthday or a once a year vacation, pick something off the menu that you can easily track. The stuffed French toast with candied pecans & vanilla whipped cream might sound incredible, but the bagel with smoked salmon & cream cheese will be just as tasty and a whole lot easier to track more easily. The same goes for things off the breakfast buffet table. Choose packets or things that are easily measurable, like 1 boiled egg vs a spoonful of scrambled eggs (who knows what’s gone into those eggs) or a sachet of oatmeal you prepare yourself vs the pre-prepared vat at the end of table.

9. Practice eyeballing quantities at home

We’ve got your back on this with our super handy Macro Balancing and Eyeballing cheat sheet! You can get this cheat sheet included in any of our Big 4 BundleIntermediateAdvanced Bundles & our Premium coaching package. The best advice I can give you about eyeballing though is to pick something that you’re familiar with. If you eat and weigh chicken often at home then chances are you’ll do a good job at guesstimating the amount of chicken on your plate. Still new to weighing your food? Practice makes perfect! You’ll develop these skills over time or you can always resort to a pocket-size food scale which is super handy if you travel and eat out a lot.

10. Plan ahead

Make your dining experience enjoyable by planning your day in advance. If you’re not sure where you’re going leave yourself a good buffer of carbs and fat as we’ve just seen, they are quick & easy to come by at any restaurant! If you have the luxury of knowing where you’re going then look at the menu online and even call the restaurant to find out their specials. Choosing your meal in advance will remove any stress and anxiety from ordering when you’re at the restaurant and will allow you to set up the rest of your day, confident in the knowledge that you’re eating the right amount of food for your body.


Just like your game plan to beat your weekend bingeing, eating out at restaurants doesn’t have to sabotage your diet or compromise your health. Flexible dieting gives you the awareness you need so you can navigate the minefield of dining out options with a clear set of nutrition goals. If you need help calculating your macros or if you need some accountability, we offer one-on-one coaching packages to suit your needs. We also have a free support group on Facebook called the Own Your Eating Tribe. Come and join a conversation or ask us any questions you might have about flexible eating.

If you have any additional tips for ordering out at restaurants, please share your knowledge in the comments below!   

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