Restaurant Menus: How to Count Calories When Eating Out
Counting calories can be a great way to stay on track with your weight loss or fitness goals. However, eating out at restaurants can make it difficult to accurately track your calorie intake. Here are some tips for how to count calories when eating out:
How to Manage Serving Sizes When Eating Out
Managing serving sizes when eating out can be a challenge, especially when restaurants tend to serve larger portions than what is recommended for a healthy meal. Here are some tips for managing serving sizes when eating out:
Check the Menu
Before ordering, take a look at the menu and see if the restaurant offers any options for smaller portion sizes or lighter dishes. Many restaurants nowadays offer “lighter” or “healthy” menu sections, which often include smaller portion sizes.
Split Your Meal
Another option is to split your meal with a friend or family member. This not only helps you to manage your serving sizes, but it can also save you money. If splitting isn’t an option, consider taking half of your meal home for leftovers.
Buffets can be particularly challenging when it comes to managing serving sizes. The abundance of food can lead to overeating, and it can be difficult to know exactly how many calories you are consuming. If possible, avoid buffets altogether or stick to small portions and avoid going back for seconds.
Use Your Hand as a Guide
If you are unsure about portion sizes, you can use your hand as a guide. For example, a serving of protein (like chicken or fish) should be about the size of your palm, while a serving of carbohydrates (like rice or pasta) should be about the size of your fist.
Be Mindful of Extras
Sauces, dressings, and sides can add a lot of calories to a meal, so be mindful of these extras. Consider asking for sauces and dressings on the side, or skipping them altogether. When it comes to sides, opt for steamed vegetables or a side salad instead of fries or other high-calorie options.
Managing serving sizes when eating out requires some effort, but it’s an important part of eating healthily and staying on track with your fitness goals. By checking the menu for smaller portion sizes, splitting your meal, avoiding buffets, using your hand as a guide, and being mindful of extras, you can successfully manage your serving sizes and enjoy a healthy meal while dining out.
Managing Liquid Calories When Eating Out
When trying to count calories while eating out, it’s important to be mindful of the beverages you choose. Beverages can be a major source of liquid calories that can quickly add up and derail your diet or fitness goals. Here are some tips for managing liquid calories when eating out:
Opt for Water
Water is the best option when it comes to calorie-free beverages. Not only is water essential for hydration, but it can also help you feel fuller and more satisfied during your meal. Most restaurants will offer tap water for free, so take advantage of this option whenever possible.
Avoid Sugary Drinks
Sugary drinks like soda, sweet tea, and fruit juices can pack a major calorie punch. These beverages are often loaded with added sugars and offer little to no nutritional value. When eating out, try to avoid these drinks altogether, or at the very least, limit your consumption and choose smaller sizes.
Choose Low-Calorie Options
If you want to enjoy something other than water, look for low-calorie options like unsweetened iced tea, sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice, or a light beer. These options can help you to stay on track with your calorie goals while still enjoying a tasty beverage with your meal.
Be Mindful of Alcohol
Alcoholic beverages can be particularly high in calories, especially if you opt for sugary cocktails or rich, heavy beers. When drinking alcohol, choose lighter options like wine, light beer, or spirits with low-calorie mixers like soda water or fresh citrus juice.
Watch for Hidden Calories
Even seemingly healthy drinks like smoothies or protein shakes can be high in calories and sugar. When ordering these types of drinks, ask for the nutrition information or ingredient list so you can make an informed decision about whether it fits into your calorie goals.
Managing liquid calories when eating out is an important part of counting calories and staying on track with your diet or fitness goals. By opting for water, avoiding sugary drinks, choosing low-calorie options, being mindful of alcohol, and watching for hidden calories, you can successfully manage your beverage intake and make healthier choices when dining out.
Tips To Counting Calories When Eating Out
Before you head out to eat, take a few minutes to research the restaurant’s menu online. Many restaurants now provide nutrition information for their dishes, which can be a helpful tool for estimating calorie counts. Look for dishes that are lower in calories, such as salads or grilled meats, and avoid dishes that are high in fat or sugar.
There are several smartphone apps available that can help you to track your calorie intake when eating out. These apps allow you to search for restaurants and menu items and provide calorie information for each dish. Some popular apps include MyFitnessPal, LoseIt!, and Calorie Counter by FatSecret.
Watch Portion Sizes
Restaurant portions are often much larger than what you would normally eat at home, which can make it easy to overeat and consume more calories than you intended. When ordering, look for smaller portion sizes or consider sharing a dish with a friend. You can also ask for a to-go box at the start of your meal and pack up half of your meal to take home.
Make Smart Substitutions
Many restaurants are willing to make substitutions or modifications to their dishes to accommodate dietary restrictions or preferences. When ordering, ask for sauces or dressings on the side, and substitute high-calorie sides like French fries with healthier options like steamed vegetables.
Be Mindful of Beverages
Beverages can be a major source of calories when eating out. Avoid sugary drinks like soda or sweet tea and opt for water, unsweetened iced tea, or sparkling water with a slice of lemon or lime. If you want to enjoy an alcoholic beverage, choose a light beer or a wine spritzer instead of a high-calorie cocktail.
Be Honest with Yourself
Finally, it’s important to be honest with yourself about your calorie intake when eating out. Don’t underestimate the calorie counts of your meals or overlook small indulgences like a handful of fries or a bite of dessert. Being honest with yourself can help you to stay on track with your goals and make healthier choices in the future.
Counting calories when eating out can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. By planning ahead, using apps, watching portion sizes, making smart substitutions, being mindful of beverages, and being honest with yourself, you can successfully track your calorie intake and stay on track with your weight loss or fitness goals.