Restaurant "Safety"

By Adam Glasgow - 11/5/2016

A Recipe for Successful Dining Out

 “Let’s go out to dinner!” The siren song of temptation resonates for us all at one time or another.  Restaurants hold so much allure; their appeal is endless. Eating out means no cooking and no clean up. Restaurant dining is an adventure and a fun activity with family and friends. It’s social. It’s relaxing. It is a chance to try new dishes and interesting foods. Restaurants even hold some cache – we like to say we tried the newest “in” place or tasted the new hip cuisine. Some restaurants hold memories from childhood or remind of us of meaningful events. We all have special places we go to that just make us feel good.

DON’T WORRY…. I am not going to tell you that you should not be going out to eat.  But I am going to give you some tips about how to do it and still be true to your weight loss goals.


1.     Pick your restaurant wisely. Pick a restaurant that you know offers healthy options. This might mean avoiding restaurants with names like “All Pasta, All The Time” or “If You Can Eat It, We Can Fry It.” Other than fast food restaurants, most places will have some healthy alternatives such as grilled or baked chicken, meat or fish or even a good salad bar.  Read reviews on Trip Advisor or even Bariatric websites.  Talk to folks who may have been there.  Try to find out if it is a “weight loss friendly” establishment.

2.     Plan your order in advance. Find the restaurant’s menu on line before you go and decide what you will order. Sure, it might take a tiny bit of the fun out of the experience, but it will also alleviate the pressure of making an unhealthy decision in the moment when you are hungry and inclined to just give into your cravings. Studies show that the further in advance we make decisions about what to eat, the healthier our choices are likely to be.

3.     Order “off” the menu. If you find that your healthy options are limited (and by healthy, I mean protein and vegetables), don’t be afraid to request the kitchen accommodate your needs. Most restaurants will happily grill a chicken breast and provide steamed vegetables, even if they do not appear on the menu that way. Restaurants typically offer grilled chicken on salads and vegetables as part of other dishes, so preparing them for you should not be out of the ordinary. If it makes you more comfortable, you can simply tell your server you have “dietary restrictions.”  Always keep your “special menu request card” handy.  We provide them and they document your status as a weight loss surgery patient and encourage restaurants to honor your needs.

4.     Make substitutions. If your meal comes with potatoes, rice or other carbs you are hoping to avoid, simply ask if the restaurant can make a substitution and provide vegetables or a side salad instead. If you end up in a fussy, “no substitutions” type place, then just tell them to take their French Fries and…. (Only kidding. Sort of.)

5.     Decline the bread. Restaurants that offer bread before the meal are a killer. If you are with close family members (who are willing to accommodate you), let your server know right away that no bread is needed. Removing the temptation is the easiest route. Of course that is not always possible when others you are with want the bread. In that case, just move it as far away as possible and remind yourself “it’s just bread.” You have had it before and it’s really not that exciting.

6.     Control your portion size. If you order a full size portion, consider dividing it in half before you even begin eating. Some people even like to ask for a takeout box for half their meal before they start. You will be happy to have the second half the next day. Another option is to order from the children’s menu. While some restaurants seem only to have “chicken finger” type options on their kids’ menus (why is that?), others have more variety.  As I mentioned before, at our patients’ request, we had special cards made that you can present to restaurants to order from the children’s menu. Feel free to pick some up when you are next in.

7.     Don’t drink your calories. Try to avoid soda, juice and alcohol which can add unnecessarily to your calorie count and your hunger level. Good substitutes? Water with lemon or seltzers if you need (and can tolerate) the fizz.

8.     Skip dessert. Save your money and your calories. Unless you are at a particularly special place, most restaurants don’t bake their own desserts. While the “gooey chocolate peanut butter upside down trifle cake” may sound like heaven, chances are it is made by a mass distributor and contains lots of chemicals and preservatives and started out frozen in a box. Did I ruin it for you? If you are craving a sweet end to your meal, try a kiddie size or a  fat free frozen yogurt at your local ice cream shop after dinner to take the edge off and extend the fun of your evening.

9.     Discuss your plan with your dining companion beforehand. If you are dining with a family member or friend, and feel comfortable doing so, let him or her know how you plan to handle your meal before you go. Asking your companion not to offer you a taste of his or her meal, or encourage you to order something else, might fend off a stressful moment before it arrives. And don’t be pressured by the saboteurs…. they are out there but their “concerns” about your food choices often have more to do with them than with you.


Bon Appetite!  Enjoy.  Eating out can be fun and successful if you remember these tips and use them to your advantage.  Good luck and have fun.

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