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Eat Out and Lose Weight

Many believe it is not possible to eat out and lose weight, and they’re not entirely wrong. If you have read Count Calories to Lose Weight you’ll see how meticulous you must be about everything you eat. If you haven’t read that page you should read it before proceeding here.

But when you eat out and just order off the menu YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW MANY CALORIES ARE HIDING IN YOUR MEAL. That is unless you go back into the kitchen and supervise the preparation of your meal. And there are probably a LOT of calories hiding in your standard restaurant meals.

Sure, you see the big items, the chicken breast, mashed potatoes, corn, the complimentary chips or bread, etc. But, you don’t know how much butter or oil is in all that. And butter and oil runs around 100 calories per tablespoon. A pretty good rule is that in most restaurant meals the tastiness is directly proportional to the calories. If it was AWESOME, it had 2200 calories.

Having said that, you can eat out and lose weight IF you’re VERY careful.

The absolute key to eating out is NOT necessarily to find low calorie foods at restaurants. The key is to find KNOWN-calorie meals and make sure they meet your daily calorie budget.

To eat out and lose weight, look up nutrition information before you go

In order to eat out and lose weight, try to limit your restaurant visits to places for which there is reliable nutrition information available online. You should look at that information and decide before you go what you will select.

For almost anything you can just do a web search. Often the restaurant will have nutrition information listed for its menu items posted on its website. If not, nutrition for most restaurant chains are often posted at third party sites like Nutritionix an excellent source of information.

For one-off restaurants (not part of a chain) you may not be able to find nutrition information easily. But you usually can look up a chain restaurant that serves similar style food and do your best to extrapolate.

How do I know the information is reliable?

Since restaurant food isn’t usually mass prepared and packaged, you might expect a little more variability in the calorie counts. For instance, the calories for that broccoli cheese casserole might be listed as having 150 calories for a half-cup. But when they scooped your serving it was more like a whole cup.

Then there is the reliability factor. If you are to eat out and lose weight, how do you know if online nutrition information is reliable? That’s a tough one. I typically just use my best judgement and I try to compare. For example, Chili’s has their information online. I would link to it, but then they’ll move it and break the link, so just Google “chili’s nutrition”.

Example: Chili’s Classic Sirloin

Doing that search I see the “Classic Sirloin 10 oz” on the menu at listed with 390 calories. I see that same item listed at has having 880 calories.

Well, if nothing else, to eat out and lose weight remember the rule at Count Calories to Lose Weight, when in doubt, estimate HIGH. So you should use the 880 figure (and be suspicious of other things at

But in this particular case, I think I can reason through why the 880 figure is definitely the correct one. If we assume the absolute lowest calorie possibility here it would go something like this. Assume that half of this 10 oz weight is bone, leaving only 5 oz of meat. Further assume that this 5 oz of meat is pure lean meat, no fat. All protein would have the least calories, and would probably be VERY tough and chewy. Five ounces is 142 grams. Each gram of protein has 4 calories. So this 10 oz sirloin cannot possibly have less than 568 calories (4 x 142).

With all that, the 390 calories reported for this item at is wildly unrealistic. The 880 sounds extremely realistic.

And, having found this discrepancy, I would question all the calorie information provided at

When you do need to keep it light

Above I said that you could eat out and lose weight if you really focused more on KNOWING the accurate calorie counts in restaurant foods more than finding low-calorie restaurant foods.

But even if you do find accurate calorie information on restaurant foods, it’s still very difficult to find much restaurant food that will fit your calorie goals.

Here’s the trick when you need to keep it light. Almost every restaurant on earth has chicken breast and a grill somewhere on site. Ask for grilled chicken breast and steamed broccoli, both prepared without any kind of oil, butter, cream, or cheese.

That has been my go-to restaurant meal many times. You’ll envy the more tasty looking meals ordered by your friends, but that’s just your lot in life at the present time.

You can substitute some other very commonly available items instead of chicken and broccoli. Just make sure you KNOW the calories, and you know how to order it in a way that doesn’t add hidden calories. Usually avoiding oils, butter, creams, and cheeses takes care of most of that.



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