Your menu navigator: How to eat out without gaining weight

We’ve collected the 6 best tips to so that you can enjoy your favorite meals with minimal guilt

Racha Adib
Racha Adib - Special to Al Arabiya News
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With so many restaurants making it to our hot lists, it’s hard to fight the temptation of dining out. Although it’s fine to splurge from time to time, but if you are a frequent restaurant visitor and want to avoid packing on the pounds, then you need to watch what you eat.

We’ve collected the 6 best tips to so that you can enjoy your favorite meals with minimal guilt.


Before you leave your house, why not take a look at the restaurant’s website and check if they have available nutrition facts? The large food chains usually do.

When you do check them, you’d be surprised with some of their calories. A healthy taco salad in one renowned restaurant turned out to be a whopping 800 calories! Had you not checked the facts, I bet you’d think you were making a healthy choice by ordering it. In that same restaurant, enjoying a burger with fries would have left you with the same end result.

Reading nutrition facts teaches you how to make the right choices, and which foods are worth the calories in your book. But don’t just focus on calories. Check for fat and sugar as well. Anything containing trans fat, the worst kind of fat out there, is best avoided.

Right after taking your order, the first thing that waiter gets to your table is either a bread basket, tortilla chips, or some bread sticks along with butter. Start by politely sending them back. Why? Because 10 chips alone pack on 146 calories and 7g of fat. What you can ask for instead are healthier alternatives, such as salted carrot and cucumber sticks dipped in lemon juice.

Did you hit the restaurant on an empty stomach? Before digging in to that dish you have your eye on, apply the science of “volumetrics” and fill up on low calorie, nutrient rich appetizers. Your options are unlimited. You can choose to begin with an endive salad, grilled vegetables, sautéed asparagus, or a vegetable soup. Indeed these are all great options, but the trick here is to watch the fat. Don’t be afraid to ask if the dish contains butter, and request that they remove it. As for salads, get the dressing on the side and use it sparingly or switch it with lemon mustard, Italian dressing, or balsamic vinegar.


If your favorite restaurant doesn’t serve a lower fat alternative to their cheese, which is probably the case, then your best option is removing it all together. Every slice of cheese contains anything between 100-120 calories and mostly likely, your dish will contain much more than the average slice. If you opt out on cheese, you’re very likely to spare a good 400 calories in one dish. Quite worth the sacrifice! If you don’t want to forgo cheese altogether, then enjoy a few bites.

You’ll be surprised how mayo gets hidden where least expected. Love that Crispy Salmon sashimi salad? Pretty healthy right? Only if you remove the mayo. Just a simple alteration will get the calories down from 450 to 200 calories and leave you with quite a heart healthy dish. As for your typical burger, by simply removing the mayo you’ll be saving at least 150 calories.

Salad dressings contain the most mayo. Caesar salad dressing, for example, is composed of 2/3 cup mayo in every cup of dressing. The end result? It packs on an average 600 (it should be 300) calories per 60ml serving.

In every table spoon of mayo, you’ll find 100 calories and 11g of fat. Its lighter alternative, which may not be available at your restaurant, contains a third of the calories providing a mere 35 calories per tablespoon and 3.5 g of fat. Love your mayo way too much? Just ask the waiter to reduce it. He’ll remove half the mayo at least and spare you quite a bit of calories.

What about dessert?

We know that it’s the best part of the dining experience, so no, we won’t recommend a fruit salad instead. When it comes to dessert all you really need is a few bites to get satisfied. So the solution is to share. Sharing dessert lets you indulge without going overboard. But keep count of your bites. Count 1 for go, 2 for caution, and 3 to stop.

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