Jul 19, 2023


Every decision you make throughout the day matters when setting fitness or weight loss goals for yourself. How many steps you take, how much water you drink, and how many veggies you put on each plate all help you move closer to — or further away from — reaching your ultimate goals.

I’ve previously blogged about how to pick the right diet, but how do you stick to dieting when you’re dining out? No matter if you’re headed out to happy hour with coworkers, to a dinner party with friends, or attending a big family meal, it’s important to know how to feel comfortable making healthy decisions that don’t compromise your diet goals. There are two important ways to look at eating out when you’ve got diet / health / fitness goals to achieve.

Making Good Decisions While Dining Out

There are several things you can do to prepare for a night out. If you’re headed to a specific restaurant, you can look up their menu beforehand and give yourself an idea of the options you have to choose from. Going into the restaurant with a good idea of what you’ll order (+ any changes you need to ask for) will make the process a lot less stressful.

Here are a few tips to make your meal a little lighter/healthier:

  • Ask for sauce on the side

  • Skip anything fried

  • Ask for no added salt

  • Stick with a grilled, lean protein option

  • Swap pasta or rice for a side of vegetables

  • Ask for a lettuce wrap instead of bun or bread

If you’re going to a party or event where you aren’t sure what will be served, do your best to make sure your nutrition during the day is the best it can be. Fill up on the good stuff early on so that the unknown doesn’t seem so scary or pressuring.

Remember to stay adequately hydrated throughout the day and try to drink a full glass of water before heading out. Eat a light snack before you leave home. Munching on a small apple, a handful of almonds, or some carrot sticks will help you avoid the bread basket or the bowl of chips, and it will also help you with portion sizes during the meal.

Making Trade-Offs so You Still Enjoy Your Meals

While choosing the right food choices and calorie intake matter when it comes to dieting, that occasional night out isn’t going to make or break your progress. While it is important to do your best to make healthy choices while dining out, it is equally important to have a flexible attitude towards your meals. If you’re constantly stressed about food choices or about eating out, chances are your quality of life is going to suffer because of it. Inflexibility leads to feelings of guilt or remorse, which can inevitably trigger an even less-than-healthy decision.

 All of this can also increase the chances of binge eating or yo-yo dieting, not to mention you probably won’t be able to fully enjoy the happy hour, dinner party, family dinner, etc if all you can do is focus on the food you can or cannot have.

Here are a few trade-offs you can make during the day so that you can let yourself off the hook a bit while dining out:

  • Have a protein shake at lunch so that you’ve got some extra calories “in the bank” for dinner

  • Skip the fries, rice, pasta so you can enjoy a slice for dessert instead

  • Instead of a calorie-packed salad (you know the ones I’m talking about!), opt for steamed vegetables that you can also have a small side of fries. 

Use these tips to make healthy food-related decisions at a restaurant or party, but don’t forget to enjoy your choices as well, as both of those things are important not only for your continued progress but also for your psychological health. Learning how to be flexible with food choices will help you make healthy eating a long-term commitment that you actually enjoy instead of a short-term “can’t wait until it’s over” diet.

At the end of the day, the choices you make day-in and day-out carry much more weight than the things you do once in a while – like having a night out. If you want to learn more about treating yourself to a cheat meal every once in a while, check out my blog on cheat meals.

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