Tips for portion control when dining out

Mastering Portion Control When Dining Out: Practical Tips for Healthy Choices

Dining out can be a delightful experience, offering a break from cooking and a chance to enjoy delicious meals. However, it can also present challenges when it comes to maintaining portion control and making healthy choices. Whether you’re trying to manage your weight or simply eat more mindfully, here are practical tips to help you navigate portion sizes and make healthier decisions while dining out:

1. Check the Menu Ahead of Time

Before heading to the restaurant, check the menu online if possible. This allows you to plan your meal in advance and choose healthier options. Look for dishes that are grilled, baked, steamed, or broiled rather than fried or sautéed in heavy sauces.

2. Opt for Smaller Portions

Many restaurants offer smaller portion sizes or appetizer portions for certain dishes. Consider ordering from the appetizer menu or sharing an entrée with a dining companion to reduce the amount of food you consume.

3. Start with a Salad or Soup

Begin your meal with a salad or broth-based soup. These options are typically lower in calories and can help you feel full faster, reducing the likelihood of overeating during the main course.

4. Ask for Dressings and Sauces on the Side

Dressings, sauces, and condiments can significantly increase the calorie and fat content of your meal. Request them on the side so you can control how much you use, or ask for lighter alternatives such as olive oil and vinegar for salads.

5. Choose Lean Protein Sources

Opt for lean protein sources such as grilled chicken, fish, turkey, or tofu. These options are lower in saturated fats and calories compared to fried or breaded meats.

6. Avoid All-You-Can-Eat Buffets

Buffets can tempt you with endless options and large portions. If possible, avoid buffets or approach them strategically by filling your plate with vegetables and lean proteins first before indulging in smaller portions of higher calorie items.

7. Mind Your Side Dishes

Be mindful of side dishes that accompany your main meal. Choose healthier options like steamed vegetables, brown rice, quinoa, or a baked potato with minimal toppings instead of fries or creamy mashed potatoes.

8. Split Desserts or Choose Lighter Options

Desserts can be tempting, but they often come in large portions and are high in sugar and calories. Consider sharing a dessert with others at the table or opting for fresh fruit, sorbet, or a small serving of dark chocolate for a lighter indulgence.

9. Practice Mindful Eating

Pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues throughout the meal. Eat slowly, savor each bite, and pause occasionally to assess if you’re comfortably satisfied. This helps prevent overeating and allows you to enjoy the dining experience more fully.

10. Stay Hydrated with Water

Choose water or unsweetened beverages like herbal tea or sparkling water instead of sugary drinks or alcoholic beverages. Staying hydrated can help you feel full and reduce the likelihood of consuming excess calories from drinks.

11. Ask for a Takeout Container

If your meal comes with a large portion size, consider asking for a takeout container when your food arrives. Immediately portion out a suitable amount to eat and pack the rest to take home. This prevents the temptation to overeat in one sitting.

12. Be Assertive About Special Requests

Don’t hesitate to make special requests to accommodate your dietary preferences or portion control goals. Most restaurants are willing to customize dishes by adjusting cooking methods, ingredients, or portion sizes to meet your needs.


Maintaining portion control while dining out is achievable with thoughtful planning and mindful eating practices. By making informed menu choices, opting for smaller portions, choosing healthier options, and being mindful of your hunger cues, you can enjoy restaurant meals while staying on track with your health and weight management goals. Remember, moderation and balance are key to enjoying dining out without compromising your overall well-being.