Whether you’re eating out to celebrate, socialize or just because you don’t feel like cooking a meal, set yourself up for success and avoid the pitfalls that come with over indulging in over-salted, over-sugared, over-sized, and often times, if you’re really honest with yourself, over-rated, restaurant food.

I LOVE to eat at restaurants. Who doesn’t? I mean come on, you don’t have to shop, prep, cook or clean…you don’t even have to get up out of your chair!

Nope, you just sit there while someone else serves you food and drink, leaving you to just enjoy a meal with friends and family…or even alone!


I’m a huge proponent of mindful eating: eating with intention while paying attention. When we eat mindfully we can truly enjoy our food, physically, mentally and emotionally.

Here are my tips for eating mindfully while eating out!

1) Always order water. Period.

Even if you order something else to drink, use water as a pacer. If you’re thirsty, you need to drink water. If you want soda or caffeine or alcohol, you still need to drink water, so drink both.

2) Deal with the bread basket in a way that feels good.

One piece? No pieces? One but no dessert? One but no alcohol? Two but no fries? If bread is something you really enjoy or look forward to at a specific restaurant, find a way to enjoy it that works for you. Bread, rolls, tortilla chips, etc, only become an issue when they aren’t given the credit they deserve. They are not to be forgotten so be sure you count them as part of your meal and eat them mindfully!

3) To appetizer or not to appetizer? It’s usually best to avoid them, but you don’t have to. 

I LOVE appetizers, especially a sampler platter, because I LOVE variety, and hate having to choose just one thing. But appetizers can make us feel, well, icky. Especially if you also take part in the bread/roll/chip component, order a side salad instead.

First we get the bread basket (or chips and salsa). Yum! Then we get our appetizers. Yum again! Then we get our food. Now what?

I don’t know about you, but there have been many times when I’ve partaken in the bread and the appetizer and then…dun-dun-dun…the entree comes, and I’m like, “Ugh. I’m already full!”

Now what? Send it back? Probably not. Ask for a box? Maybe, but just a few bites. Eat it anyway? It looks so good! I’ve been craving this! I was starving! 10 minutes later. “I’m so uncomfortable. Somebody roll me out of here. I hate myself.”

Part of enjoying a meal is NOT eating past full. And when you eat at a restaurant that’s really easy to do, especially when you order apps.

My suggestion is to order a side salad. The side salad will come out quickly. If you’ve let yourself get too hungry this is the best way to curb it, plus a salad is going to offer way more nutrition than any bread, roll or chip, and unless you ordered something like fresh veg and hummus, it’s probably safe to say, the salad will be more nutritious than any appetizer too!

However, if you do opt for the appetizer keep it to ONE potato skin, ONE mozzarella stick, or ONE southwest egg roll. Or make the appetizer your meal. Just don’t make yourself sick and miserable trying to eat it all.

4) Put your fork down between each bite. (Do this at home too!)
Putting your fork down between each bite is a hard habit to create but it’s super effective.  It will naturally slow you down and force you to pay attention to each bite you take— chewing, tasting, feeling, and swallowing.

Don’t pick the fork back up until you’ve swallowed the entire bite. This ONE habit can make a HUGE difference when it comes to overeating.

5) Stop eating as soon as you feel full and immediately ask the server to take away your plate.

If you allow the plate of food to sit on the table you’re more likely to pick at that food left on your plate even though you’re full.  Asking the server to remove the food, removes the temptation. It will probably be hard at first, but remember your goals and how you’ll feel if you overeat. No one really likes to be uncomfortable.

6) Don’t take it home!

There are a few exceptions to this tip but for the most part, it’s best to say, “no thank you” to a to-go container. (Unless you plan to give your leftovers to someone in need._

Leftover fettuccine Alfredo doesn’t taste good reheated. 

The only time a to-go container should be taken home is if you ordered something that is part of your normal, nutritious diet. But remember, even salads and other foods that appear real/whole are often loaded with added sugar and salt to create a taste that’s unique to that particular restaurant– so they’re probably not that nutritious either! Plus, soggy lettuce? Mmmmm…no thanks.

7) Talk A LOT!

Eating out should be a social affair that revolves around communication. Focus on conversation and you’ll find yourself wanting less food, naturally.

8) Share dessert…and remember that you can pass on it all together.

It’s not a required meal component. It is purely for pleasure, not nutrition, so only take part if you can do so feeling good about it. Meaning, sans-guilt and without feeling uncomfortably full.

9) Don’t eat everything on your plate or justify taking it home by saying you don’t want to waste food or money.

Give equal credit to the moment. Be grateful for the time spent with others, not having to cook or clean or fill your own water glass. You’re not just spending money on the food, you’re spending it on the atmosphere, the relaxation, the conversation, and the experience.

10) Save the good stuff for the good times!

If you’re eating out because you don’t feel like making dinner, or don’t have any groceries in the house, STICK TO YOUR NORMAL AT HOME EATING PLAN! That means no margaritas, no french fries, no hot fudge brownie sundae.  Order something nutritious that you would make at home.

If you’re out at a fancy restaurant having a date night or celebrating a friend’s birthday, then splurge and enjoy! Be careful though. It can become very easy for our brains to convince us that every occasion is a justification to splurge, so set limits that you can stick to.

Related posts you should check out:

Starving Children in Africa Don’t Want Your Sushi

Eating for Pleasure