Eating is a deeply social and celebratory activity. It is something humans have always enjoyed, even way back in time. Ceremonies and joyous occasions often centre around food. With holiday celebrations now in full swing, this is the perfect time to be reviewing this topic. Many of us eat more restaurant meals during the Christmas holidays than any other time of year. It’s a time when we love getting together with friends and family, and what better way to celebrate than over a restaurant meal? I like restaurant eating too, I just try following these four tips whenever I eat out, to be the healthiest I can be.

Tips to Eat Healthier Restaurant Meals

1. Enjoy restaurant meals, like everything else, in moderation.

Back in the 1970s, 30% of North American food dollars were spent on eating out, now it’s 50%. That’s quite the jump in calories, and for our wallets! Every day you eat out is a day you’re not likely losing weight. I’ve been tracking my food consumption for a few months now, and I know that the days I eat out, are the ones when I consume more calories. Even the healthy meal selections have more calories. Ever wonder why restaurant salad dressings, sauces and even steamed veggies taste better? It’s often because more oil, butter, salt and sugar is added. Just realize that if you eat out more than two times in a week, you will likely have trouble losing weight that week. Plan your meals a head of time, and try not to enjoy a restaurant meal more than once a week if you’re trying to lose weight.

2. Make restaurant meals special.

It’s important socially, to celebrate special occasions. Stop eating out when “you just don’t feel like cooking” or “it’s been a long day, I earned this reward”. Have healthy, easy to warm-up options in your freezer like frozen veggies, pre-cooked protein and leftovers on hand for these ‘blah’ days. The fewer restaurant meals you consume, the more you’ll actually enjoy and appreciate them. They will start becoming special occasions in and of themselves.

3. Don’t just order the ‘lowest calorie’ item on the menu.

Be sure to order the ‘lowest calorie item that you’ll enjoy’ at the restaurant. If you don’t like fish, why would you waste this celebratory eating occasion by forcing yourself to eat it? What you order should make you happy. If you’re happy by eating an appetizer sized portion of something you love, versus a whole dinner sized portion, ask the restaurant to accommodate your request. Many of them will be able to do this. We often don’t need a full sized portion of a meal, to satisfy a craving. Fill up a little on a salad or soup before your favourite dish arrives.

If you ordered a mediocre meal, only eat half of it and place your napkin over top of it at the halfway mark. It’s not worth picking away at more of this ‘only satisfactory’ meal that day, or the next.

4. Don’t ‘save up’ calories the day of your restaurant meal, you’ll just end up overeating.

Eat your normal breakfast and lunch before a dinner out. Believe me, if you skimp on calories throughout the day, you’ll be hungrier at night. Entering a restaurant with an empty stomach is just setting yourself up to dive into the bread basket head first! I try to eat a healthy snack like fruit with Greek yogurt or veggies and dip before heading out to a restaurant. This helps me stay in control when I’m ordering my dinner.

You will eat more if you head to a restaurant hungry!

To Sum it up…Enjoy Restaurant Meals, Just be Smart About Them

Eating is a social and celebratory activity that should be enjoyable. I keep my restaurant eating in check by relishing restaurant meals, like everything else, in moderation. I usually eat out less than once a week. This helps make this activity more of a special occasion. Order the ‘lowest calorie item that you’ll enjoy’ at the restaurant and don’t ‘save up’ calories the day of your restaurant meal, you’ll just end up overeating indulgent, higher calories foods when you’re there.

These habits, coupled with me consistently tracking my food, have led me to lose that stubburn 7 pounds I gained during the recent pandemic. I’d love to hear about your successes with these restaurant meal strategies!