Portion Pointers for Eating Out

Although here at Guiding Stars we usually focus our blog posts on topics that relate to selecting and cooking food at home, we realize that most everyone dines out sometimes. But eating out each week—even just once a week—is known to add up to increased weight over time. So, here is a post to help with one of the most common issues that consumers have when eating at restaurants: eating too much! I know—it’s all so tasty and you want to get your money’s worth—I don’t blame you. However, there are a few techniques you can use when eating out that will allow you to enjoy the experience, stretch your dollar, and keep portions in control for good health, too.

Woman eating in a restaurant

Appetizers are your friends.

By this I mean, ordering appetizers as your meal, not before your meal. Let’s face it, ordering appetizers and then a full entrée basically means a big meal is on its way. Instead, order appetizers for your whole meal—there’s no restaurant law that says you can’t! I actually prefer doing this when eating out for a few reasons. 1) The portions are naturally smaller, 2) the variety of choices is usually good and let’s me mix-and-match and still get enough food to be a “real meal,” and 3) it typically doesn’t increase the size of the bill for the meal. There is a rule here though: aim for two appetizers, or three at most. If you order more than this it ends up being more of a personal buffet situation that brings its own overeating hazards. Honestly, when I get three appetizers, I usually end up sharing one, or simply not eating it all because it’s too much food. You can ask the server what the portions are like for various appetizers that you’re interested in. I make it a point to get a salad as one of the apps, and then something more substantial—usually something with a good dose of protein in it. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that getting a few fatty, cheesy, creamy appetizers is a healthful meal just because the portions are smaller.

Sharing is caring.

Lots of times our dining partner also wants to keep his or her health in mind and not overeat, hence, sharing aspects of the meal. I’m a big fan of sharing an entrée (and dessert), and then getting my own appetizer. (By the way, I don’t expect the kitchen to divide it for me—they hate doing that generally and I don’t like to make a fuss. I just split it at the table and ask for a second plate.) This approach works well at places where you know the entrée is going to be big, such as a steakhouse. Between my own salad, a shared entrée, and a few bites of a shared dessert, I am satisfied but not stuffed at the end of the meal and we’ve saved money as well. Wins all around!

Get a take-home container right away.

Forget the “doggy bag,” because this is about having food for you later, not your doggy (sorry, pups)! The thinking here is that getting a take-home container at the beginning of your meal makes the meal size easier to deal with—leaving you free to just concentrate on enjoying your meal. This is especially useful when you know ahead of time that the portions at a restaurant are big and that you’ll never finish the food in one sitting (and wouldn’t want to). When the food and container arrive, simply cut the meal in half, transfer one half to the container right away and set it aside to take home when you’re done. No muss, no fuss. Making it automatic makes it easy, and I’m all about easy ways to eat better.