How To Eat Out on A Diet

5 min read

For many, eating out is one of those little life luxuries that opens up a whole world of positive.  It’s fun, it’s sociable, it’s delicious and it often leads to many a happy memory made with friends and family.

However, it’s also one of the first things to get binned when you start a weight loss journey, which, to be fair, is understandable.

A recent study into the psychology of eating out has shown that it directly correlates with overeating and poor food choices, which can then lead to people tossing in the diet altogether.

The problem with eating out is that the foods can be packed with salt, sugar, fat and are hugely calorific without much nutritional value.  Take a McDonald’s Big Mac for instance, on its own without fries, the burger clocks in with 550calories, 30g of fat -11g of which are sat fats - 45g of carbs and 25g of protein.

It also contains 9g of sugar and 1010mg of sodium – that’s a massive 44% of your RDI – and enough artificial preservatives to ensure that burger outlasts the sturdiest of plastic toys you’d find in a 1990s Happy Meal.

But it does taste yummy…

Of course, fast food chains are known to be pretty shoddy on the nutrition front, but the same can be said for a high quality chef cooked meal at a bougee restaurant.

Say you order a steak and chips.  Have you ever wondered how they manage to get the steak just so darn tasty?  The secret is butter, and lots of it, basting that bad boy to within an inch of its life – and that’s before you smother it in the béarnaise…

That said, you don’t have to avoid eating out when on a diet, and with these tips and tricks, you’ll be able to enjoy that meal AND still hit your fitness goals in delicious style.

Plus, your social life will thank you.

Go whole or go home

You lift the lid, you lift the burger, you sink your teeth into the soft, pillowy bun, dipping through the layers until your mouth is filled with the meaty sensation of minced beef and seasoning, maybe there’s a crunch from a gherkin of lettuce thrown in there too… bliss… but also massively processed.

Processed meals are love at first bite – one taste and you’re hooked.  

They can also be really rubbish for your overall health – where are the micronutrients?! - and are even worse for when you’re trying to lose weight.

Why?  Well, they’re crammed with sodium, and its main role in the body is to retain water.  Have you ever weighed yourself the day after a Chinese and witnessed the 2kg jump from the day before and had a small heart attack that all your hard work to date was thwarted?  

The good news is, it hasn’t, you’ve simply ingested a huge amount of sodium which has led to a huge amount of water retention which has led to an alarming weight “gain,” but this highlights how tucking into many processed foods can skew the scales.

To avoid this, and to keep yourself on track for your goal weight, take a read at the menu before you go to the restaurant and choose a meal made from fresh, whole food ingredients where possible.

Think lean proteins, whole grains, veggies and rice.

Make a swap

Most meals out will come with a side of chips, but to make your meal more diet friendly, ask your waiter to swap these out for some cooked veggies, whole potatoes or side salad instead.

This will help up your fibre intake, lower the calories of your meal and give you an epic nutritional bang for your buck.

Think about the sweet stuff

Sugar is not the devil food as billed by your favourite insta fitluencer – we said what we said and we stand by it – BUT too much of it can have a rather gnarly impact on your body and on your calorie intake.

Unfortunately, many highly processed meals from your favourite fast-food chain are often loaded with it, leading to dehydration, glucose spikes and sugar crashes, especially when it comes to the sweet menu.

And that’s not all, sugar packed drinks like full sugar Coke, cocktails and alcoholic drinks with high calorie mixers will naturally ramp up your calorie count for the meal.

So, to stay on top of your calories for the sake of your weight loss journey, choose the low fat or low sugar options off the menu.  When it comes the drinks, water is fantastic, but you can also enjoy a tipple by ordering smaller measures, and mixing spirits with diet sodas.

Choose red over white

No, we’re not talking about wine here, we’re talking about pasta!

Yes, pasta can be eaten as part of a lean and healthy diet, but creamy pasta sauces (white) are usually made with full fat cream, cheeses or both and can make your fat and calorie intake skyrocket.

However, tomato or veggie-based sauces are a great way to help keep your calories in check, your fat intake low and even help you hit your 5-a-day target.

Pair it with a lean meat like a lovely juicy chicken breast and you’ve one cracker lean, high protein meal.

The F word

We need to talk about it… Fat.

Not all fat is created equal, but the one you want to watch out for is saturated fat.  Sat fats, whilst they can be used for fuel, can also elevate your cholesterol and give you a bit of a jippy tummy too.

Typical foods that are high in sat fats include red meats, full-fat cheeses, biscuits, cakes, cured meats, sausages and butter.

So, when it comes to dining out, try to opt for lean meats like chicken or fish and lean whole cuts of beef like fillet steak.

Fish like Salmon are naturally high in fat – but good fats – and are a fantastic choice to add variety to your diet all the while giving you a tasty Omega-3 and 6 boost.

And finally…

Eating out is a pleasure and a joy, and one we at MuscleFood HQ love to indulge in.  That’s why we want you to know that there will be times in your weight loss journey that all you want to do is tuck into your favourite meal whether it’s seen to be healthy or not.

And that is absolutely OK.

If your diet is lean and healthy most of the time, enjoying a meal out eating whatever you want isn’t going to derail your fat loss.

These tips are simply a short guide of ways you can be more mindful when you do eat out so you don’t feel like you’ve wasted all that hard work and make it much easier to stay on track after – IF you wish to!

But it isn’t set in stone.  

So go on and enjoy that dinner with pals and make yourself some memories.

Ashleigh Tosh

Ashleigh Tosh

Ashleigh is a Copywriter and content creator with over 10 years experience writing for the health & fitness industry. She's currently training for her first powerlifting comp at the end of 2023!