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Weight Loss & Diet

Get a Great Weight Loss Meal at Any Restaurant

Get a Great Weight Loss Meal at Any Restaurant
Author
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health

In this article:

  • The average American consumes over one-third of calories outside the home. That can lead to extra calories and poorer nutrition.
  • Most casual restaurants have healthy options. They may be on the menu or you may need to ask for them.
  • The best bet is to order a lean protein and a vegetable. It is also good to keep portion sizes small.
  • Lark can give you personalized weight loss coaching and help with smart food choices.

Americans eat out a lot. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that 34% of Americans’ calories are consumed away from home. In addition, more than 4 in 10 dinners are eaten away from home. That means there are a lot of people eating a lot of dinners at restaurants. 

Why does that matter? Compared to meals made at home, a USDA report finds that meals away from home:

  • Include high-calorie foods.
  • Tend to be higher in calories and saturated fat.
  • Can be lower in fiber and calcium.

Eating out often can lead to weight gain. It can even increase the risk of death, according to research in Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  But it does not need to. 

Just make a game plan and careful choices. You can get a healthy meal at a restaurant that can help you lose weight. Here is a guide for a healthy weight loss meal at casual restaurants.

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What to Order


Every restaurant has a different menu. How can you know what to order? Many restaurants post their nutritional information online. You can check it before you go. These tips can help.

  • Some restaurants have “skinny” or “diet” menus. They may include calorie-controlled, portion-controlled options.
  • A general upper limit for calories might be 400 to 500 for the meal.
  • Eating only half of the item means you only get half the calories.

If you cannot see the nutritional information, you can do your best by looking for healthy choices. The below ideas can help.

Mix and Match for a Good Weight Loss Meal


The restaurant may not have a clear-cut menu item that is good for weight loss. But it is not time to give up! Instead, look for common, lower-calorie food items that may be on the menu. Put a few together. Your meal may include these.

  • A protein.
  • A vegetable.
  • A healthy starch.
  • Water or another low-calorie beverage.

Also, steer clear of common, higher-calorie items. These are some foods to seek and avoid.

Type of Food Look for or ask for… Avoid…
Protein
  • Grilled or baked chicken, fish, or shrimp
  • Fajitas without tortillas
  • Shrimp cocktail
  • Veggie burger patty
  • Black beans
  • Fried or crispy chicken, fish, or shrimp
  • Burgers
  • Pasta dishes
  • Steak and ribs
Side Dishes
  • Side salad with light dressing or vinaigrette
  • Steamed, grilled, or roasted vegetables
  • Fresh fruit
  • Croutons, crispy noodles, tortilla strips on salads
  • Bacon and ham on salads
  • French fries, mashed potatoes
  • Rice or pasta
  • Onion rings
Other
  • Mustard, salsa
  • Broth-based soup
  • Raw vegetables (“crudites”) plain or with salsa
  • Creamy dressings and sauces
  • Chips and dip
  • Bread/rolls and butter, breadsticks
  • Nachos, quesadillas
  • Wings
  • Egg rolls, fried onions
Beverages
  • Water, ice water
  • Unsweetened hot and iced tea
  • Black coffee
  • Soft drinks
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Mixed drinks
  • Sweetened coffee and tea

More Strategies


These are a few more tips.

  • Portion control is key. Order the smallest possible size. And if it is still too big for a reasonable meal, eat only half of it. Pack up half of the meal before you start eating so you can have it later. Or share it with a friend.
  • Salad dressings can add hundreds of calories. Get them on the side or order low-calorie options.
  • Plain chicken or fish are better for weight loss than items with creamy sauces.
  • It is okay to ask your server not to bring items such as bread, rolls, and chips. If others at the table want it, place it out of your reach.
  • The customer is always right. It is okay to ask for changes such as taking the skin off of chicken, grilling instead of frying, or swapping broccoli for french fries. 
  • You can always ask the server to take something off of your plate before you get it. Examples include starchy sides, garlic bread, or toppings such as sour cream, bacon, and cheese.
  • Ask for it. If you don’t see something simple on the menu, the restaurant may still have it. Examples include plain chicken or a salad with just greens.

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Losing weight can lower your risk for developing type 2 diabetes, and that’s not all. When you lose a few extra pounds, energy levels can increase, cholesterol and blood pressure can improve, and clothes fit better. Best of all is that Lark makes weight loss simple!

Lark doesn’t just know which choices can lead to weight loss. Lark coaches you on how to make good choices that can become habits. With small changes that fit right into your lifestyle, you can drop pounds and lower your risk for type 2 diabetes. Your personal coach is available 24/7 through your smartphone so you can get expert tips, track meals, physical activity, and weight loss. 

The entire program may be available at no cost to you if your health insurer covers it. Click here to find out if you may be eligible for Lark! You could be minutes away from taking the first steps to hitting your weight loss goals and improving health.

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