Eating Out At Restaurants: How to avoid the excess calories

Sometimes we have great intentions when it comes to healthy eating, but our social life gets in the way…Dining out, entertaining, traveling for work, you know how it goes. As a “Foodie” I love eating out. I love trying new foods, and enjoying new versions of classic recipes. However, eating out has its price, not only to your wallet, but also on your waistline.

The other day I went on the Kegs website to check out their new “build your menu” nutrition info. Feature. I was astonished by how many calories are in the typical meal that I would order.  I never really thought that it was THAT much, until now.  To put things into perspective, (in general to maintain a healthy weight) women should aim to consume around 1500 calories/day, and men around 1800-2000 calories/day (Note: this is a general number, and is not specific to individual needs).

I was floored when I found out how many calories were in a typical dinner that I would order at The Keg. See my calculations below:

  • (I usually skip the appetizer, but sometimes when I order it I would get calamari = 465 calories, split ½ with my husband Ross).
  • Starter salad =104 calories for a House Salad
  • Bread = 120 calories ¼ loaf of Keg Table Bread without butter (but who does that, so add 20 calories for a ½ tsp. butter)
  • 7 0z wine (Keg size of course!) = 168 calories
  • Main meal = 469 Thai Chicken with a vegetable garnish
  • Dessert = 660 cheese cake (split with Ross)

Total= 1423 calories!

This meal contains almost my entire days worth of energy. Wow! I honestly thought eating out was closer to 800ish calories…Just another reason why food journaling works!

So how do you eat out and save on the calories? Here are some tips that I have come up with:

  • Skip the appetizer (most appetizers are between 400-700 calories).  Instead, order a house salad (dressing on the side). Dip your fork into the dressing before you pick up the lettuce off your plate. You will use less dressing, and still be able to add some flavor.
  • Skip the bread…as good as it smells, try to hold off for your meal. A couple of pieces of warm bread (plain or even with a bit of butter) can run you about 300-400 calories before your main course has arrived.
  • Order extra vegetables on the side (ask that they do not put butter on them). Remember to eat your veggies first (as they will fill you up), and you will be less likely to over eat your starch and protein.
  • Try to stick to low calorie drinks. Order a bottle of San Pellegrino to sip on before the meal so you can save your wine to enjoy when your food is ready.
  • Don’t finish your whole meal. Only eat half. If most restaurant meals are around 900 calories, make an effort to only eat half. I wouldn’t bother taking the rest home. Some people find it hard to waste, but you have to put it into perspective. Eating out is about being social, the food is just part of the event.  The excess food that your body doesn’t need can go to either the garbage waste or your tummy waist. Some people find it easier to eat half the meal slowly, and then cover the remaining plate with their napkin (out of sight, out of mind).
  • Skip dessert (or order it and share it, but still you are looking at around 400-600 calories for most desserts.

Eating out at restaurants and enjoying what you eat is part of having a healthy relationship with food. However, blindly consuming food with out knowing how much energy it contains (compared to what your body can burn off without storing it is as fat) is very important.

Often I hear people say “I have been good all day, so I can eat whatever I want tonight”…and they are referring starving themselves all day by to not eating breakfast and lunch, and then giving themselves permission to go overboard at dinner. This isn’t the best way to manage eating out at restaurant’s, as you are just slowing down your metabolism.  A better approach would be to got for a long bike ride during the day (pre-burn off the calories you might consume in the evening), or make an intended effort the following day to get outside and burn off your dinner with 60-mins or more of exercise.

Eating out once and awhile (1-2x per month) isn’t going to throw your weight loss plan off. So don’t feel that you can’t eat out occasionally. Just keep the math in mind.

If your body requires 1500 calories to achieve your goal weight or to maintain your weight, and you have consumed 1423 calories in 1 dinner meal, plus the calories from breakfast and lunch (assume 400 for each), your daily total would be around 2223 calories.  That is about 700 calories more than your body requires to maintain a healthy weight (using 1500 calories a day as a requirement). If 1 pound of fat =3500 calories; you don’t have to worry about gaining weight by over consuming 700 calories in 1-day.  You won’t be putting on even ½ a pound in day if you eat out once and awhile. But you can see how exercise can eliminate that extra 700 calories from eating out (thus staying on track). If you went for a 1.5-hr bike ride and burnt 500 calories during the day, and then went out to eat, you have pre-burnt off the energy you are going to consume in the dinner meal.

Maintaining a healthy weight takes a lot of hard work. If it didn’t, everyone would be at a healthy weight.  You deserve to enjoy good food out at restaurant once and while, so go and enjoy yourself…just be mindful of what you are eating and use the tips I mentioned above to help manage eating out!

Hope this helps, Susan

…My nutrition student volunteer Brittney DesRosiers did a bit of research for me and put together some typical meals…It really is shocking!

The Keg Steakhouse & Bar:

Ever wonder how many calories you’re eating?

Lunch Menu       

Lunch #1

  • Main Meal: Classic Burger with bun & topping including cheese= 737 calories
  • Side: Side Caesar Salad= 178 calories
  • Dessert: Mini Fudge Brownie= 494 calories
  • Drink: 1 Bottle of Alexander Keiths Beer= 145 calories

Total: 1,554 calories

Lunch #2

  • Starter: Scallops & Bacon= 260 calories
  • Main Meal: Steak Sandwich= 711 calories
  • Side: Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes= 379 calories
  • Drink:16 oz Lipton Iced Tea= 120 calories

Total: 1,470 calories

Lunch #3

  • Starter: Wild Mushroom Soup (small)= 128 calories
  • Main Meal: Shrimp & Noodles= 1350 calories
  • Dessert: Chocolate Cake= 888 calories
  • Drinks: 16 oz Coke= 187 calories

Total: 2,553 calories

Dinner Menu

Dinner #1

  • Starter: Bruschetta= 1145 calories
  • (assumed split between 2 people)= 572 calories
  • Main Meal: Grilled Top Sirloin Steak (12 oz)= 499 calories
  • Side: Baked Potato (plain)= 354 calories
  • Dessert: Brownie Sundae= 1105 calories
  • Drinks: 7 oz glass of white wine= 168 calories

Total: 2,698 calories

Dinner #2

  • Main Meal: Zesty Salmon= 630 calories
  • Side: Steamed Asparagus= 67 calories
  • Dessert: Cheesecake= 660 calories
  • Drink: 1 Bottle of Alexander Keiths Beer= 145 calories

Total:  1,502 calories

Dinner #3

  • Starter: Crab, Parmesan and Spinach Dip= 763 calories
  • (assumed split between 2 people)= 381 calories
  • Main Meal: Thai Chicken= 469 calories
  • Side: Vegetable Plate= 13 calories
  • Dessert: Apple Crumble= 364 calories
  • Drinks: 16 oz Coke= 187 calories

Total: 1,414 calories

Kids Menu

Kids Chicken strips

  • Chicken Strips w/Plum Sauce=451 calories
  • Vegetable Plate & Ranch Dressing= 180 calories
  • Ice Cream= 472 calories
  • Drinks: 16 oz Coke= 187 calories

Total: 1,290 calories

Kids Sirloin

  • 6 oz Sirloin Steak= 244 calories
  • Vegetable Plate with Ranch Dressing=177 calories
  • Ice Cream= 472 calories
  • Drinks: 8 oz Chocolate Milk= 190 calories

Total: 1,083 calories


The Keg Steakhouse & Bar Food Items:






About alittlenutrition

Susan is passionate about teaching others how to achieve optimal health and wellness by taking the confusion out of nutrition and promoting fun ways to stay active. Susan has been a certified fitness instructor for over 8 years and enjoys teaching yoga, pilates, and fitball classes at Elite Fitness and Dance. However, her main interest in nutrition has led her in the direction of becoming a registered dietitian. Susan completed her undergrad in Human Nutritional Science at the University of Manitoba and has recently completed her dietetic internship with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. Currently she is now combining her fitness skills with her nutrition knowledge and offering comprehensive nutritional and lifestyle coaching. Prior to becoming a dietitian, Susan worked as a sales executive for a variety of paint manufactures for over 10 years. She created innovative sales initiatives and marketing programs for corporate and independent retails stores. Now with her knowledge of nutrition and her business experience, she helps restaurants and food service operations create healthier meals options for their customers. Susan is highly involved in community health promotion, as she has been appointed to sit on the Recreation and Wellness Commission of Niverville and the Chair person for the South Eastman RHA District Health Advisory Council Western division. She is the co-founder of former the Niverville Active Living and she has put on many community health promotion activities such as: * Lose It For Life - Weight loss / Lifestyle Transformation program * Family Fitness Month…Win A Will Contest * Niverville Fair ~ Smoothie Booth * Community Cholesterol Reduction Challenge * Cooking On A Budget * Couch Potato Race She is a member of the College of Dietitians of Manitoba, Dietitians of Canada, Manitoba Fitness Council and the Canadian Obesity Network. In her spare time, Susan enjoys cooking for her family, gardening, photography and being physically active outdoors with her husband and friends.
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1 Response to Eating Out At Restaurants: How to avoid the excess calories

  1. GeorgeS says:

    Your tip about the salad dressing is great. Dipping your fork before you take each bite. I never thought of that before. I usually pour it all on and later realize how much extra calories I’m adding to my salad. Skipping dessert is also good, but I think some like me, are going to need to work on their will power first.

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