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How to make healthy choices when eating out at a restaurant

So you’re trying to lose some weight. You’ve been following a nutrition plan and training regularly, everything is going well and you are starting to look and feel great. But then someone asks you out to dinner and you’re worried about being able to stay on track.

This is a scenario I’ve had to help hundreds of personal training clients with, so don’t stress, I’m here to help! It is perfectly feasible to eat out 7 nights a week and still lose weight, it just requires a little bit of planning. Read on for my top 3 tips of how to stay on track when eating out.

Choose the restaurant

If you can have a say in where you eat, then pick a restaurant where you know you can get something that will fit your needs. For instance, you’ll be hard pushed to find lower calorie options in a pizza restaurant, where as there’ll probably be lots in a fish restaurant. 
Some restaurants will even have the amounts of calories they contain on their website, particularly your lower budget chain type options (oh hey Nando’s!). This will enable you to scan the menu and work out what to order.

If we use our favourite Portuguese chicken emporium as an example:

You could order this…

Half Chicken (Hot), with regular chips and coleslaw = 1331 calories.

Or this…

Chicken Butterfly (Hot), with regular chips and side salad = 841 calories.

A couple of small changes and there’s a 490 calorie difference!

It’s not just Nando’s where a couple of simple changes can save you a lot of calories, check out these examples from a few other major brands…


  • Chicken Katsu Curry – 1145 calories
Chicken Ramen Noodles – 476 calories

  • Saving 669 calories

Gourmet Burger Kitchen

  • The Mighty Burger – 1328 calories

  • Classic Burger with Cheese – 855 calories

  • Saving 473 calories

Pizza Express

  • Calabrese Pizza – 1346 calories
Classic Margharita Pizza – 729 calories

  • Saving 617 calories


  • Super Salmon 3 Ways – 563 calories
Salmon and Avocado Rolls – 338 calories

  • Saving 225 calories

Calorie Management

If you know in advance you are going to be eating out, then you can manage your calories that day to leave yourself some extra for the evening meal. By eating a little less for breakfast and lunch, you can eat a little bit more for dinner.

This is something I tend to do on a day to day basis anyway, even if I’m not eating out, as I prefer to eat a bigger evening meal (particularly a carb based one) when I get home from work, so I’ll usually eat a little less proportionately throughout the day.

For instance…

Person A

Meal 1: 500 cals
Meal 2: 500 cals

Meal 3: 500 cals

Total : 1500

Person B

Meal 1: 350 cals

Meal 2: 350 cals
Meal 3: 800 cals

Total: 1500

In both these scenarios the same amount of calories are eaten over the course of the day, but you’ve left yourself some extra for the evening meal. It’s a simple trick but something that can keep you on track.

Throw caution to the wind

Lastly, and this will depend on how often you go out, but sometimes it’s just good to go out and eat whatever the hell you want! Since my wife and I had a baby 18 months ago, we’ve only been out for food a handful of times – cue tiny violin playing sad songs!

On the odd occasion that we have eaten out, there was no way I’d be scanning the menu for the best calorie options, it’s 3 courses and a bottle of wine or nothing! If you eat out regularly, then I’d advise that splurges like this are kept for special occasions and to eat more conservatively at all other times.

FYI : I never eat out and call it a cheat meal, find out why here.

In conclusion, as you’ll probably know from reading any of my articles on nutrition, I’m a big fan of planning. I believe that with a little bit of forward thinking you can eat out regularly stress free and still lose weight. Food is there to be enjoyed and if you can work out ways to eat out as part of your new lifestyle you’re on to a winner!

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