10 Tips for Dining Out While on the South Beach DietArticle posted in: South Beach Diet South Beach DIY
Just because you want to lose weight, that doesn’t mean you have to stay away from enjoying a night of dining out.
On the South Beach Diet, we provide you with guidance and tools that teach you how to make healthy choices in real-life situations. This is the pillar of the plan that sets you up for long-term success once you’ve reached your weight loss goals. We set you up for success long before you’re done dieting, so you have the confidence to choose the right foods, in the right portions, and put together healthy meals on your own!
A big part of this is having the freedom to enjoy dining out at your favorite restaurant—while still sticking to the South Beach principles. This is important so that you don’t feel like you’re missing out on the things you enjoy just because you’re on a “diet”. The less you feel “deprived” while dieting, the more likely you are to stick with your new healthy lifestyle.
So today, we’re excited to share our top 10 tips for dining out while on South Beach Diet. Let’s get started!
1. Be choosy.
Pick a great restaurant with menu options that you’re excited to try. Don’t default to your neighborhood greasy spoon just for the sake of dining out. Make it special, something to look forward to. Try new restaurants or styles of cooking; many international cuisines will have preparations that lean more toward how you’re used to eating on South Beach, like Mediterranean, Japanese, Greek, Vietnamese or Indian.
If you don’t have a say in the choice of restaurant—you’re attending a work function or a best friend’s birthday party—not to worry. We’ve got you covered with ordering tips no matter where you end up!
2. Check out the menu online.
Most restaurants will post their menus on their website. Take advantage of this and check it out ahead of time to come up with a healthy game plan. That way when you show up at the restaurant hungry (and taking in all those amazing food smells!), you won’t be tempted by some of the unhealthier options as you browse the menu in-person. Show up with a plan and stay on track!
3. Know your meal plan.
Try to plan ahead as best you can for dining out. If this will count as one of your DIY meals on the South Beach Diet, make sure you know how many servings of Proteins, Healthy Fats, Good Carbs and Vegetables to aim for in your meal out so you can keep an eye on portion sizes once you get there.
4. Don’t show up starving.
Make sure to eat as you normally would throughout the day leading up to dining out—don’t dip out on breakfast or skip snacks in order to “save up” calories or servings to splurge with later on. Besides the obvious reason (show up overly hungry and you’re less likely to stick to your plan and more likely to overeat when the food arrives), skipping meals throughout the day could lead you right into a blood sugar crash and subsequent snack-fest that throws you off track before you even step foot in the door of the restaurant.
You’re not you when you’re hungry, so set yourself up with the best possible odds by not showing up starving, or worse—after having overdone it on vending machine goodies or snacks earlier in the day—all because you skipped a regularly scheduled meal or snack on your plan.
5. Be the portion police.
Ok, not really—but do be mindful of portion size once your mouthwatering meal is placed in front of you, and you’ve got eyes-bigger-than-your-stomach syndrome. Many restaurants serve meals that are equivalent to two or three times the amount that you need for any given meal occasion, so be prepared!
Some of our favorite ways to navigate huge restaurant portions while dining out:
- If you’re dining with a friend, find out if they’d like to share an entrée with you. Many restaurants will split a single dish onto two plates or happily bring out an extra plate for you to go halfsies.
- Split a meal with yourself. Have your server bring a box out when your entrée arrives so you can pack up your extra portion to-go before you even dig in. Bonus: you get two (or three!) servings for the price of one!
- Order from the kids’ menu, where you’re more likely to find portion-appropriate picks. Now this won’t work for everything on the kids’ menu (we’re looking at you, chicken nuggets and mac ‘n cheese!), but it works wonderfully for things like burgers, which as a kid’s portion usually ring in at around a three-ounce serving instead of the typical eight-ounce adult serving. Skip the bun and swap the fries for a side salad or steamed veggies, and you’ve got yourself a perfect South Beach-approved meal!
- If there’s a nice selection of seafood and veggie-based apps, try ordering one or two appetizers or sides to nosh on instead of a full entrée. Chances are, you’ll end up with a portion closer to what you’ve become accustomed to on South Beach.
6. Start green.
If you’re eyeing a cooked entrée as opposed to a meal-sized salad, opt for a side salad as an appetizer to arrive before your main dish. Not only will you get in at least one or two of your veggie servings for the day, you’ll also help yourself fill up on veggies and therefore not overdo it once your main meal arrives.
Stick with a garden salad while dining out—hold the croutons and cheese—and ask for the dressing on the side so you can keep track of your portion size. If you don’t have a Healthy Fat serving to spare for your salad dressing, remember that you can use an Extra on your plan as long as it’s 35 calories or less per serving (which comes out to about two teaspoons of dressing). Or you can always go light and spritz your salad with some fresh lemon juice and some fresh ground pepper before you dig in!
7. Have it your way.
Ask how dishes are prepared rather than judging solely on the menu descriptions. Seek out lighter preparations—think steamed, broiled and grilled instead of breaded, battered and fried—and if you don’t find what you’re looking for, don’t be afraid to ask for it! Most restaurants can switch the preparation, substitute ingredients, nix the butter or cream-based sauces—and if that’s not possible, your server will be able to point you to a few different menu selections that can be catered to your preferences.
Pro tip: Ask your server what they’d order if they wanted the healthiest thing on the menu! They know the menu offerings inside and out, so lean on their expertise when making your selections.
8. Make reservations.
Nothing’s worse than a wait list when you’re hungry. Your hunger grows as you see and smell everyone’s food around you and before you know it, you’re seated and your desperate tummy is making all of the decisions on your order (and chucking your healthy eating plan right out the window). Call for a reservation ahead of time so you can skip the wait—and stick to your plan!
9. Stay hydrated.
A study, published on the National Center for Biotechnology Information, found that drinking just over two cups of water—17 ounces to be exact—30 minutes before a meal, helped dieters consume fewer calories and lose 44% more weight than those who didn’t hydrate before their meal. So definitely drink up before your meal!
10. End with a coffee.
Skip dessert and enjoy a cup of coffee, tea or an espresso to close out your meal. This will give your stomach time to signal to your brain that you’re full, while you punctuate the end of your meal with a tummy-settling, palate-cleansing pick that’s not packed with added sugar, processed carbs and unhealthy fats.