Dining Out and Weight Loss: Dinner Edition

Article posted in: Diet & Nutrition
dine out

If you’re like a lot of people, dining out is likely a big part of your social calendar. Whether it’s meeting up with friends or family, going on a date or hitting up Happy Hour with your coworkers, you might be worried that your plans to lose weight are going to be a big wrecking ball in your social life. Eating has become a natural part of socializing and it can be hard to dine out when you’re trying to eat healthy.

Fortunately, it really doesn’t have to be that way. You can have meals out—including dinner—while still staying on track to lose weight. In fact, dinner should always be a part of your daily menu. Skipping any meal can cause your metabolism to slow down, making it more difficult to lose weight in the long run. It’s what you choose to order that will make the biggest difference in your overall success.

There’s no question that it can be easy to go astray when eating out at a restaurant. There are many tempting, unhealthy options and plenty of seemingly healthy choices that are actually diet traps.

Here at Nutrisystem, we believe that you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your social life—or enjoyment—to lose weight. That’s why we’ve created a dinner edition of “order this” and “avoid that” to help guide you toward the best possible dinner decisions. Don’t let one meal sabotage your hard work and weight loss efforts!

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Order This:

Go for Grilled

grilled chicken

Fried foods contain high amounts of calories and fats. Although they are some of the most tempting options on the menu, it’s essential that you avoid these diet disasters. Instead of greasy fried foods, select options that are grilled to save on fat and calories. With grilled food, excess fat tends drip off while cooking.

Choose a lean protein like chicken, shrimp or fish and opt for it grilled as opposed to fried. Sometimes, the terminology can throw you for a loop and the menu might not specifically say “fried.” Avoid meals that include battered, breaded, au gratin or gratinée in the name or description. In addition to grilled, you can also look for foods that are steamed or broiled for a diet-friendly option.

Watch Your Portions

dine out

When you dine out at a restaurant, one of the biggest problems you often face is the portion size. To combat this, you could choose a healthy appetizer as your entrée or portion out your dinner before you even eat it. For instance, ask your server to box up half of the meal immediately or share half with a friend. You might even look at the soups and sides as a dinner choice. Together, a broth-based chicken soup and a side salad could make a healthy meal.

Fill Up on Fruit and Veggies

dine out

Instead of unhealthy sides like French fries or onion rings, choose a side salad, steamed veggies or fresh fruit when you dine out. When your meal is served, fill up on those sides first. You’ll be less tempted to eat your whole entrée and you’ll get a serving or more of fruits and vegetables.

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Don’t Be Afraid to Order “Off” the Menu

dine out

If you find yourself at a restaurant where nothing looks healthy, don’t be afraid to ask for something that’s not exactly “on” the menu. For instance, if they are serving a fish dish that’s slathered in butter, ask if you can have yours steamed or broiled. The same goes for veggie side dishes. Many restaurants serve their vegetables with melted butter but don’t be afraid to ask for yours steamed with no butter. You can also request simple swaps like replacing white bread with whole grain, white rice with brown and grilled protein instead of fried. Most restaurants are more than happy to do what they need to in order to keep their diners pleased.

Avoid That:

Pass the Breadbasket (Right on By You)

dine out

We’ve all done it—indulged on bread and butter before the meal even comes. It’s so tempting when it’s just sitting there. However, try passing that breadbasket right on by you without taking any. Better yet, ask the server to take it away. Refined carbs, such as bread, can cause a spike in blood sugar that actually leaves you feeling hungrier. That’s why it’s hard to take just one piece.

Skip the Pasta


So many pasta dishes are loaded with creamy sauces and cheese which can make the fat and calories skyrocket. Plus, there aren’t a lot of restaurants using whole grain pastas. If you can, avoid these dishes altogether when you dine out. However, if you’re absolutely craving pasta, stick to a dish without a heavy cream-based sauce such as a spaghetti marinara or a dish with olive oil and garlic. Alfredo dishes are some of the worst on the menu and contain loads of cheese, oil and calories.

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Be Leary of the Salad Section


Though salads are often thought of as the “go-to” of healthy dinner choices, restaurants typically use dressings that are shockingly high in fat and calories. Mix in some toppings like bacon, cheese and croutons and it’s suddenly one of the least healthy dishes on the menu.

Salad can be a good choice when you dine out if you’re sticking to a low-fat or no-fat dressing and limiting your toppings to healthy options like grilled chicken, diced veggies, nuts and seeds. If there’s a dressing you really love, ask for it on the side and mix it in yourself, sparingly. You can also bring your own bottle of healthy salad dressing to avoid the dilemma altogether.

Avoid Sugary Beverages

dine out

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that your drink selection could easily be sending you astray when you dine out. Don’t drink your calories at your meal by choosing sodas or juices. Instead, opt for water, unsweetened iced tea and black coffee. If you’re not feeling plain water, ask for a slice of lemon or lime to add some flavor.

When it comes to alcohol, avoid sugary mixers and sweet sips. Instead, choose dry wine, light beer or mixed drinks made with plain liquor and seltzer. On Nutrisystem, we recommend a maximum of two servings of alcohol per week. Spread them out and try not to have them on the same day. Click here to learn more about alcohol and weight loss. >

Need help dining out for breakfast or lunch?

Check out our other handy ordering guides below!:

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