When you’re trying to control your calories, you may feel as if it’s best to stay away from
restaurants altogether. The menu descriptions can tempt you to eat something you shouldn’t,
portions are often too large, and it can be difficult to know exactly how many calories you’re
But going out to eat is a pleasure you probably don’t want to give up forever, so learning your
way around a menu and figuring out how to ‘dine responsibly’ are skills worth mastering. Here
are six common restaurant diet traps.
• Don’t get derailed from your usual meal plan. You should have a general plan in your
head as far as what you usually eat for your meals, and you should stick to it. If you normally
eat some combination of protein, veggies and salad for lunch, then look for something
similar on the menu – and don’t let eyes wander towards a sandwich or a pasta dish.
• Watch out for foods that sound healthier than they are. Sandwiches can be healthy if
they’re made with lean meats, veggies and whole grain breads – but the calories can add up
fast if you add cheese or mayonnaise or if the sandwich is a foot long. Watch those healthysounding salads, too. A Chinese chicken salad can rack up more than 1000 calories thanks
to the crunchy fried noodles and heavy dressing.
• Beware of the daily specials. Your server might come by with a mouth-watering
description of the daily special, so watch out. A lot of times, specials can’t be modified,
meaning that you might not be able to skip the sauce or gravy, or have the fish grilled rather
than pan-fried. If the special fills the bill, great – but decide on something from the regular
menu ahead of time. That way, you’ll have a backup.
• Don’t fall in the supersizing trap. You really need to stand firm when you’re offered more
food than you want – even though it sounds like a good value. When your server says, “for
just a dollar more, you can have a side of fries with that”, think to yourself, “for just a dollar
more, I’ll be getting 600 more calories and 40 extra grams of fat”.
• Read calorie counts on menus carefully. Calorie counts on menus are not entire
accurate, and the actual count may be as much as 20% higher than what the menu says.
Also – the calorie counts usually list the items separately – not the calorie count for the
whole meal as it’s served. So while you’re noting the calories for the entrée, don’t forget to
add in the calories for the sides that come with it.
• Finally, it’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating – restaurant portions can be huge.
Split an entrée with your dining partner and order an extra side of veggies, or have your
leftovers packed up as soon as you’ve eaten your portion. When it comes to supersizing,
restaurants may be able to afford to pile it on – but you can’t.