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eat out and lose weight

Eating and socializing can be anxiety inducing and overwhelming while you’re on a restricted food plan, but there’s no need to put your social life on hold to see results on the scale.

These days, more than ever, restaurants are offering great, healthy options in response to demand from the public for healthier options and greater clarity on meal ingredients and nutritional information. We’ve gathered some of our best tips and tricks in a concise format to help you navigate the restaurant menu calmly, so you can focus on the experience of the meal and enjoy the company of those you keep. 

General Tips to Keep in Mind:

  • Try to stick to protein and vegetables whenever possible. Most sauces can be served on the side, ask for “no butter/no oil”

  • Think ahead and don’t arrive starving, if you arrive with stable blood sugar and a light snack in your tummy, you’ll be more apt to make wise nutritional decisions and not act on the whim of your hunger or cravings.

  • When possible, preview the restaurant’s menu online before you go so you know what to expect and can make a calculated decision on the healthiest (and most delicious) option.

  • Pass on the bread basket and chips. If possible, ask your server to not bring them at all.

  • Entrees are easy, while finger foods are often breaded, fried or otherwise carb-loaded, entrees that are made of simpler ingredients can be easy to find.

  • Look for grilled, broiled or baked options. These typically aren’t breaded, so they’ll be safer bets.

  • Ask your waiter for details on how things are prepared, they’re used to questions! Be polite, but get the answers you need.

  • Don’t hesitate to make substitutions. If a meal comes with French fries, bread or pasta, simply ask that the kitchen either leave it off the plate or substitute some vegetables instead. You can ask for “No starch and extra vegetables”.

  • At parties or social gatherings, ask the host what they plan on serving so you know what to expect. Offer to bring a dish or two that you know you can enjoy and that will satisfy your hunger. The host will be happy to have the contribution and you’ll be glad to know that you won’t be hungry all night if they’re serving only foods that you aren’t currently eating.

Tips by Entree Type:


  • Avoid anything titled “sweet and sour”- sweet = sugar

  • Be careful of rice, noodles and other grains that are often added to soup entrees.

  • You can count the liquid from clear broth soups toward your “water” for the day and if there are a lot (1 ½ cups) of veggies you can count that as a carb.

  • Most soups with meat or fish have anywhere from 1-2 ounces which would equal 1 to 2 units of protein.

  • Opt for soups that are broth based. “Bisque” means cream and “Chowder” means cream + corn, “Minestrone” means pasts is in it. Order soups without rice, pasta, noodles and ask your waiter for details on what exactly is included in the soup dish.

  • All restaurant soups will be higher in sodium than any you would make yourself at home.


  • Salads are great options but look out for ingredients like corn, croutons and chips. Olives, sour cream, cheese, avocado or guacamole, and dressings are all high in  fat. Dried fruit like cranberries are high in sugar.

  • Pick one type of fat and skip the extra additions. Always ask for dressing on the side, only eat ½ the amount provided.

  • Creamy dressings tend to have the most fat ( Subway Ranch Dressing is 300 calories!)

  • Fat free dressings are the better options, however, sweet flavors will have a lot more sugar added and so go easy on the rest.

  • Don’t be scared to ask the waiter for simple oil and vinegar to top your entree salad with.

Main Entrees:

  • Avoid rice, french fries, plantain, yam, hominy, masa (tortillas) and anything fried. Watch out for portion sizes!

  • All pizza, pasta, rice, sandwich choices are dangerous ( so is anything served with fries, potato chips, potato salad, macaroni salad, etc,). Sub “Carb-y” additions for veggies or a salad, or ask your waiter to omit it completely, that way, you circumvent the temptation before it has a chance to convince you that “one bite could do no harm”

  • A crab cake sounds healthy, but “cake” equals carbs. So does “panko”, “crust”, “phyllo”, “cellophane”, “wonton”, “dumpling”, “tempura”, “rice paper”, anything with “puff” or “crispy” in the title, anything in a “pancake”. Look for whole food items that have as few ingredients as possible to keep things clean and low carb.

  • Carbonara & Alfredo = cream & fat, so steer clear of any of these dishes.

  • Couscous, tabbouleh, and, yes, even quinoa are all carbohydrates and should only be eaten in moderation (1/4 cup or the size of ¼ of a tennis ball) or not at all.

Tips & Tricks by Cuisine Types:

American Food:

Avoid: Fried Foods, anything breaded, sandwiches & pre-mixed dressing.

Enjoy: Bun-less or lettuce-wrapped burgers and salads with lemon or vinegar & Olive oil

Chinese Food:

We suggest avoiding Chinese food all-together as there is typically a plethora of sugar laden sauces and battered meat. In a pinch, enjoy the Chinese Chicken salad, hold the crispy wontons.

Indian Food:

Avoid: Skip the naan, rice and anything breaded or fried.

Enjoy: Meats and veggies that are grilled or roasted and not drowning in sauces.

Italian Food & Pizza:

Avoid: Bread, pasta and breaded meats. Ask about sauces and preparation of items (meatballs often contain breadcrumbs)

Enjoy: Broiled Chicken, fish, shrimp or other protein with red sauce and veggies or salad on the side.

Japanese Food:

Avoid: Rice (white & brown), anything fried or tempura battered, and most sauces.

Enjoy: Sashimi or broiled fish (be sure to ask about sauces)

Mexican Food:

Avoid: Tortilla shells and chips, and rice.. Avoid refried beans as they can contain a lot of fat.

Enjoy: Meat, salsa  and black beans are ok, stick to no more than ½ cup you can often ask for these ingredients on the side or to be placed on top of a salad. Ask for raw vegetables or carrots to dip into guacamole. But, remember, guacamole is low carb but high in fat. Add a side of vegetables to your entree.

Thai Food:

Avoid: Noodles, fried or battered entrees and sides and desserts.

Enjoy: A curry dish or other coconut milk-based dishes or Tom-Ka soup.

The following options certainly aren’t IDEAL for the GreenLite program, but they’re certainly more ideal than throwing in towel and opting for a stack of pancakes. Making healthy choices while outside of your comfort zone is like flexing a muscle and gets easier the more you do it!

Specific Restaurant Recommendations

  • Asian Box – Go for the Asian vegetable salad box, with shrimp or chicken. Choose steamed vegetables and box toppers of your choice (however, we can’t totally recommend the scallion oil or caramel egg). Be cautious with your sauce, opt for the No-Oil Fish Sauce sauce at all.

  • Applebee’s – Check out their “under 550 calories” option for some surprisingly healthy alternatives to their typically hearty fare.

  • Aqui’s – Menus vary per location, but opt for salads and protein entrees. Sub beans, polenta and sweet potato fritters for extra salad or the veggie special.

  • BJ’S – Check out their Enlightened Entree menu for smart options under 575 calories. Chose the fish and salad dishes, opting for sauces and dressings on the side.

  • Chevy’s – Order from the Soups & Green’s sections and nix any tortilla toppings & beans.

  • Chipotle – Opt for the salad option with protein & veggies, using the salsa varieties as salad dressing. If you want Guacamole, get it on the side to help with portion control. Insider tip- You can ask for extra cilantro from the back to top your salad and grab a few lemon or lime wedges from the drink station for an extra-tangy-twist.

  • Chilli’s – Offering a “lighter” fare option, with grilled chicken and lean steak options, displaying calorie value for every entree.

  • California Pizza Kitchen – Order from the salad menu, our favorite is the roasted veggie salad.

  • Crepe Vine – Opt for scrambles, omelets and salads. Sub veggies and salads instead of potatos and just say NO to the free toast!

  • The Counter – Order any burger to your low carb specifications! For sauces, we recommend the the lemon or sun-dried tomato vinaigrette.

  • Denny’s – They offer a Fit-Fare menu section with some healthy-veggie filled omlette options.

  • Cheescake Factory – The Skinnylicious menu provides reasonable portions sizes and some great low carb options, but be sure to steer clear of the sandwich, burger bun and pasta options.

  • Subway – Order any sub as a salad or make your own salad with your choice of veggies. Be sure to skip their house-made sauces and opt for vinegar, salt & pepper instead.You can create your own salad on their website to get the exact nutritional break down of what your heart desires.

  • Starbucks –  Try their bistro boxes when nothing other eating options are in sight, but ditch the included cracker and toast.

  • Specialties (across the street from the GreenLite Mountain View office!) – Their breakfast quiches are a good, on-the-go breakfast option and they offer customizable salads if you pre-order online. We recommend bringing your own dressing if you’re eating at work because even their vinaigrette option has a hefty carb count.

  • TGI Fridays

  • Panera – Offering a great array of protein focused entree salads, Panera was voted the #1 healthy fast food option by health.com. Still be cautious with their dressing options (Rumor has it, they have a healthy, low carb, secret menu too, but we have yet to try it)

Please keep in mind, that while it IS possible to see results while eating out occasionally, home prepared meals are more ideal for weight loss as you can control and minimize the extra ingredients and potentially harmful additives.

If you have any other healthy eating tips of local restaurant recommendations, we’d love to hear your tips and tricks for eating on the GreenLite plan in the comments below. Now go enjoy your night out on the town!


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