Eating Out on a Diet

More Ways to Cut Calories

Put the Brakes on Discretionary Calories

It's often the little things you do that can amount to big calorie savings or wreak havoc with your calorie budget. Fat and sugar easily creep in when you're dining out unless you keep up your weight-control defenses.

  • Request sauces, gravies, and dressings on the side so you control how much of them you eat.
  • Ask for salad dressing to be served on the side. Then just dip your fork in it and pick up a forkful of salad -- you get the flavor with a minimal amount of dressing. Or drizzle a little dressing from your fork onto the salad.
  • Be selective at a salad bar. Go easy on or avoid the creamy salads, such as potato or pasta salad, as well as marinated salads, cheese, bacon bits, and croutons. Choose a low-fat dressing if you can, and put it on the side. Or just enjoy the salad without any dressing at all.
  • On sandwiches, hold the condiments such as mayonnaise and special sauces. Instead, ask for lettuce, onion, tomato, or other veggies, along with mustard or a splash of vinegar.
  • Ask the server to remove the butter from the table.
  • Get a salad instead of mashed or fried potatoes, white rice, or bread.
  • Be adventurous when it comes to toppings. For instance, instead of the traditional high-calorie butter and sour cream for your baked potato, try salsa, taco sauce, or chives and pepper. Ask for lemon wedges, and squeeze onto vegetable side dishes or salads.
  • Cut fat and calories in half by sharing an order of fries or other high-calorie side dish.
  • Eat lower-calorie options first, such as vegetables and grilled meat. Then move on to the higher-calorie items, such as mashed potatoes, which have added fat. That way, you'll eat less of the higher-calorie food.
  • For dessert, order fresh fruit, a fruit-based dessert, or fruit ice.
  • Share dessert or take half home.
  • Skip the alcoholic beverages and sodas. Instead, choose nutrient-rich beverages such as small sizes of juice or nonfat milk; plain water, coffee, or tea are low- or no-calorie options.

True Menu Claims

In 1997 the FDA finalized regulations for nutrition labeling of restaurant menu items that bear a health or nutrient claim.

If you see these terms on a menu, you know they have to be accurate:

  • Low Fat: 3 grams or less of total fat
  • Low Cholesterol: 20 mgs or less cholesterol AND 2 grams or less saturated fat
  • Low Sodium: 140 mgs sodium or less per serving
  • Light: either 1/3 fewer calories or 1/2 the fat of regular items. It can also mean that a serving of a low-calorie, low-fat food provides half the sodium normally present. Check the label for sodium content. Be wary of terms such as "Lighter Fare," which can merely mean dishes with smaller portions, as long as that clarification is made on the menu.
  • Healthy: Low in fat and saturated fat, has limited amounts of cholesterol and sodium, and provides significant amounts of one or more of the key nutrients vitamins A, C, iron, calcium, protein, or fiber.
  • Heart Healthy: Either the item is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and fat plus it provides (without being added) significant amounts of one or more of the key nutrients listed in the "Healthy" claim OR it has all the previous benefits and also is a significant source of soluble fiber. Again, check the label for fiber content.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.