5 Tips To Keep Your Calories Low When Eating Out

Christian Coulson
Updated: June 14, 2020
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Pop quiz! How many calories does the average restaurant meal contain?

a) 1,200 calories
b) 400 calories
c) 800 calories
d) calories are a myth

If you answered 400 calories, please let me know which restaurants you go to, I would much really like to go eat there.

The correct answer is 1,200 calories! Yeap, the average meal at a restaurant contains 1,200 calories, my friend. That’s more than half the recommended daily average, which, by the way, it’s already high.

Anyway, I get that eating out is a beautiful part of our lives, but that doesn’t mean we have to binge eat and let our calories get out of control, or that we have to starve ourselves to lose weight.

Here are 5 tips to keep your calories low when eating out.

1. Order Lean Meats

Restaurant meals are typically loaded with oils, sauces, and dressings that contain lots of fats. Add to that a fatty meat like steak, lamb, or salmon and you’ve got yourself a calorie bomb.

A good way to keep those calories down is by choosing lean meats over fatty meats.

To put it into perspective, 4 oz of chicken breast has around 120 calories while 4 oz of steak has around 190 calories.

This also depends on the cut of the meat, for example, chicken thighs and flank steak contain more fat than chicken breasts and top sirloin respectively.

Sample of lean meats:

  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Fish (not salmon)

Keep in mind that just because a food is considered healthy, doesn’t mean that it has little calories. There are a few “healthy” foods that can be making you gain weight without you even knowing.

2. Baked and Grilled Over Fried and Sautéed

The cooking method can make a huge difference in the calorie content of a meal.

Baked, boiled, and grilled foods will not absorb oils like fried and sautéed foods. This alone can significantly reduce the number of calories you consume when eating out.

1 single tablespoon of oil has around 120 calories.

Now imagine throwing your food in a sea of oil to cook it. How much do you think it will absorb? Probably more than a tablespoon, right?

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3. Ask for Sauce on the Side

As previously mentioned, many sauces and dressings are made with sugars and oils. This will easily make you pack some unwanted calories.

You can have a little more control over the amount of sauce you put on your food by simply asking for it on the side.

You could also choose sauces that are not creamy. Creamy sauces are usually made out of cheese, butter, and fats.

4. To Go Box

If you’re in the US, chances are the portions you get restaurants are way bigger than you should be eating. But just because that’s what they serve you, doesn’t mean that you should eat all of it.

It’s completely fine to take some home to eat later.

Explore More: How To Lose Weight Without Tracking Calories

5. Look up the Restaurant’s Nutritional Info

Nowadays, restaurant chains are required to display their nutritional information.

You can look up the calorie content of each one of their meals on their website. This will help you decide what to order without going over your daily calorie goal.

Keep in mind that half of the restaurants out there are not chains, so they’re not required to display their nutritional information.

In cases like this, you can try one of the other 4 tips or look up nutritional information from a restaurant chain that serves almost the same foods.

For example, if you’re eating a burrito you could look up a burrito from chipotle or Olive Garden if you’re eating Italian.

Fats are still important

The fact that I’ve mentioned fats so much in this article may lead you to believe that fats are the enemy, but they’re not.

Healthy fats are an essential nutrient, they’re important for hormonal balance, storing energy, and maintaining brain health and function.

The issue with fat is that since they provide 9 calories per gram, it’s very easy to overconsume them and can easily make us add some unwanted calories.

Weight Gain After Eating Out

Keep in mind that it’s completely normal to wake up a 3-5 pounds heavier the morning after eating out.

One reason for this is because restaurants typically use lots of sodium in their meals, which can cause a bit of water retention.

Q: What other tips do you have for keeping calories low when eating out? Let me know in the comment section below!

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