Dining Out and Weight Loss: Lunch Edition

Article posted in: Diet & Nutrition

Your weight loss results are often a direct reflection of your lunchtime habits. Whether you enjoy grabbing brunch with friends or taking a solo lunch break at the local café for some valuable “me time,” it can be hard to make healthy choices while dining out. You might be worried about how you can stick to a healthy eating plan without giving up one of life’s little pleasures. Will you suddenly be confined to dining at home or the office if you want to shed some pounds?

Fortunately, the answer is no. It is possible to dine out and still lose weight—assuming you make some smart choices.

In fact, let’s start with the fact that you absolutely should be eating lunch. Skipping meals, including lunch, can cause your metabolism to slow down and make it more difficult to lose weight. A study, published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, found that skipping meals increases belly fat. Naturally, it’s also going to make you hungrier come dinnertime and more likely to overindulge.

Choosing to eat lunch is a wise choice. However, it’s still important that you make smart selections. Dining out can quite easily pose temptations. Sometimes foods that are seemingly healthy choices—like salads, wraps or sushi—can be packed with unsuspecting fat and calories.

To help you navigate going out to lunch, we’ve created an “order this” and “avoid that” list that will guide you toward making Nutrisystem-approved lunch choices. With just a little bit of help, you can still enjoy a delicious lunch at your favorite restaurant while staying on track. Make your midday meal work for you with this helpful guide.

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Order This:

Pick Proteins

lean proteins

Packing in high-quality proteins is important to help you maintain daily energy. Look for lean choices like turkey, tofu, chicken breast, fish or shrimp to keep fat and calories at a minimum. The way that these foods are prepared is also important. Avoid protein dishes that are fried or served in a lot of butter. Instead, look for baked, broiled, grilled or sautéed options without any breading. Hardboiled eggs also make a great choice and are delicious sliced and served over salad.

Seek SmartCarbs

dining out healthy food

SmartCarbs are a specific group of carbohydrates that are nutrient-rich, high in fiber and lower on the Glycemic Index. The high fiber content causes them to be digested slowly, helping you feel full longer. They also deliver vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients.

When ordering a sandwich, wrap or burger, avoid products made from white flour and select options labeled whole grain. With the popularity of toast for lunch, you might find an avocado toast dish served on whole wheat bread, for instance. Brown rice, quinoa, beans, lentils and sweet potatoes are also delicious SmartCarb options filled with nutrition.

Fill Up on Fruit and Veggies

dining out healthy food

Make it a goal to fit as many non-starchy vegetables into your lunch as you can. If you’ve ordered a slice of pizza, pile on the veggies like onions, arugula, tomatoes and peppers. Ask for a side of roasted veggies or salad with reduced fat or light dressing. Request extra veggies on your sandwiches and wraps. Loading up on greens is the perfect way to stay satisfied all day.

If you’re craving something sweet, avoid the dessert menu and ask for a cup of fruit to satisfy that sweet tooth. You can also ask the waiter to substitute your side with a fruit salad instead of the standard fries or potato chips. With more fruits and veggies in your lunch, you’ll fill up on less calories and fit in valuable nutrients that you really need.

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Select Smart Sips

dining out healthy food

Beverages are another area where lunches can quickly take a detour. Stick with calorie-free drinks that are free of sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. Water, unsweetened iced tea, herbal tea, black coffee, seltzer water and lemon water will all count towards your daily water intake. On the Nutrisystem program, we recommend drinking at least 64 ounces of water per day. By sticking with smart sips, you will avoid empty calories that pack on the pounds.

Avoid That:

Watch the Salad


When trying to choose a “healthy” option while dining out, most people default to salad. However, it’s shocking to see just how much fat and calories are inside the salad bowl of many restaurants. On its own, a bed of greens is a perfectly acceptable choice for your healthy diet. However, pile it high with creamy, high fat dressing and unhealthy toppings and your diet could take a detour.

Ingredients like bacon, cheese and croutons can quickly turn a nutritious lunch into one of the worst options on the menu. Instead, choose a salad with healthier toppings like nuts, seeds and extra veggies. Opt for oil and vinegar as your dressing or bring your own bottle of low-fat dressing that you love.

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Ditch the Bread

dining out healthy food

It’s always hard to resist the classic restaurant bread basket filled with baguettes, bagels and croissants. Avoid temptation before it presents itself by asking your waiter to hold the bread. By eliminating the choice from your table altogether, it’s easier to stick to your meal plan and stay on track.

As you’re exploring your lean protein options, you might also see choices like grilled chicken sandwiches or shrimp wraps. Before placing your order, check if you can swap out white bread for whole grain or forgo the bread altogether. Plenty of restaurants are now accommodating in replacing bread with lettuce or maybe even serving your entrée atop a bed of whole grain rice or quinoa. Never assume that the restaurant can’t make simple substitutions for you. Be forthcoming in asking about ways to make their dish healthier. After all, they want to keep patrons happy and continuing to come back!

Skip the Fried Sides

dining out healthy food

A healthy lunch while dining out can quickly go awry with something as simple as a side of French fries or chips. With side dishes, many people don’t realize just how much they’re eating and how fast the fat and calories can add up. Opt for a side of roasted veggies or salad to fill up on fiber-filled ingredients that keep you on plan.

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