When you're on a mission to lose weight, eating out can be one of the most challenging experiences. Suddenly you're not in control of the exact ingredients and the measurements that are being put into your meal, and you run the risk of consuming things that aren't normally in your day-to-day diet, like fried or greasy foods.
Just because you're trying to lose weight doesn't mean you lose the joy of eating out, though. The women below have faced all the ups and downs of a weight-loss journey — and come out on the other side victorious — so they know all the useful tricks when it comes to dining out. Here's some advice you won't want to miss out on, whether you're trying to shed a few pounds or just need some smart tips for eating out.
"I connect with my health coach and my community of friends that might know what is a great, healthy idea when I plan a meal out at a new place." — Katie Patterson
"I take a look at the Weight Watchers app and find a meal that fits in my budget, and I pretrack it. If the restaurant is not in the Weight Watchers database, I try to find a similar meal at a different restaurant and track that." — Sarah T.
"I usually get on the restaurant's website and take a look at their menu and find something I'd like to have and plan my day for it (so I don't go over my containers)." — Rachelle Hosick
"If I know what restaurant I'm going to, I'll look up their menu ahead of time to plan what I'll order." — Angela Estrada
"When I go out to eat, I research the restaurant first to figure out the healthy options I can choose from. I love Longhorns because they have a calorie counter for all the food. I can have an incredible meal for 430 calories." — Ashley Witter
Order Something Simple and Clean
"I generally stick to simpler meals with fewer ingredients, like grilled meats and vegetables or big salads with lean proteins." — Esther Hollander
"Avoid the sauces and dressings in restaurants; they are filled with sugar. [My trainer] would tell me to focus on the sugar and fat and, of course, calories of each meal." — Julie Ana Kim
Go With a Salad, but Be Smart About It
"I usually stick with salads with dressing on the side; it's usually the safest meal to choose when dining out." — Katie Patterson
"One thing I love to do is keep a packet of Jenny Craig dressing in my bag. When I'm out and I order a salad, I put my own dressing on it and save a ton of calories!" — Angela Estrada
"If there are salads, I get low-fat/low-cal dressings, usually without cheese." — Ellie Carter
Don't Be Afraid to Speak Up
"The thing with eating out is don't be afraid to make special requests. Ask for the sauce on the side, or ask to only season with black pepper to avoid a lot of salt." — Rachelle Hosick
"You can request a dish to be cooked a certain way, and most menus have a low-calorie or healthy-options section." — Angela Estrada
"While there, I ask for things to be changed to best fit Food Optimizing. So I will ask for my food to be cooked without oil or butter and ask for dressings on the side." — Jennifer Ginley
"If there are marinades or preps, I ask for no butter and sauces on the side." — Ellie Carter
"I ask a lot of questions and order my meal with sauces on the side and healthy substitutes prepared to meet my needs." — Pam Horrocks
Keep an Eye on Your Portions
"I'll ask for a to-go box and plan to cut the portion size down since most restaurants serve you enough food for two to three meals." — Ellie Carter
"Ask for half the meal in a to-go box since restaurants always have large portions." — Julia Ana Kim
"I don't tend to eat out that often, but when I do, I just make sure to eat proportionally. For example, my partner and I will usually order a pizza on a Friday night, and I will have two slices and put them over a bed of spinach. I feel like you should still enjoy the foods that you want and that eating out should be about having flavors that you don't get to experience very often, so I don't tend to deny myself; I just try to keep it reasonable and add it to my phone so that it counts towards my nutritional balance." — Hailey Hechtman
"If I know I want a more indulgent dinner out, I'll eat Greek yogurt for breakfast and salad for lunch. If my coworkers want to go out for lunch, I'll have overnight 'oats' for breakfast and a veggie omelet for dinner!" — Alex Goldman
Just Enjoy It!
"When I do go out, I just listen to my body. I used to eat until I was so full that I felt ill and bloated. I don't do that anymore; instead I like to actually enjoy the food I'm eating!" — Kaitlyn van Brunschot
"But let's be real; if I'm going out to eat, it's probably for a special occasion, and I am going to enjoy the chips and guacamole because what is life without chips and guacamole?" — Jessica Forseth
"I always have one day where I have a treat meal and dessert. I always choose what I want, as I think it's important to listen to your cravings. I have learned from experience it doesn't end well if you ignore them. So one day I will have something I've fancied all week and a nice dessert to follow; that way I feel refreshed for the week ahead." — Lobke Meulemeester