How to Manage Your Hunger and Cravings When Dining Out

» Blog » How to Manage Your Hunger and Cravings When Dining Out

Eating out at restaurants can be a fun and enjoyable experience, but it can also pose a challenge when trying to make healthy choices. With so many tempting menu items and larger portions than we typically eat at home, it can be easy to overindulge and stray from our health goals. However, with a little bit of planning ahead and practicing mindful eating techniques, dining out can still be a satisfying and healthy experience. In this article, we will explore practical tips for staying mindful and making healthier choices when eating out at restaurants.

Plan Ahead

Plan Ahead
When it comes to eating out, it can be challenging to stick to your health goals and practice mindful eating. That’s why it’s essential to plan ahead to ensure a successful dining experience. By taking some simple steps beforehand, you can make healthier choices and be more mindful of your food intake. Let’s explore some practical tips that can help you prepare for dining out and enjoy your meal while still being mindful of what you’re eating. To learn more about mindful eating and its benefits, check out our article on the benefits of mindful eating for weight loss.

Check out the Menu

When dining out, it’s important to check out the menu in advance to make a mindful decision about what to eat. Scan the menu first for healthy options and make a mental note. Highlight the menu options that meet your criteria in bold or circle them with a pen. Consider choosing a restaurant that offers healthier options or dishes that fit your dietary preferences.

If you are unable to check the menu beforehand, take a few minutes to read through the options before making a decision. If you are unsure about a particular dish, don’t hesitate to ask your waiter or the chef for more information. They can often provide insight into the ingredients, cooking methods, and portion sizes available.

Remember, making healthy choices doesn’t mean sacrificing flavor or enjoyment. Many restaurants now offer flavorful and satisfying dishes that are also healthy. Keep in mind the tips listed in mindful sugar cravings and mindfulness portion control.

By checking the menu beforehand and making a mindful decision, you can avoid impulsively ordering unhealthy options and feel more in control of your choices.

Eat Something Beforehand

One of the best tips for practicing mindful eating when dining out is to eat something beforehand. This may seem counterintuitive, but arriving at a restaurant hungry can lead to overeating and making unhealthy choices.

Instead, it’s recommended to have a light snack, such as a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts, before heading out to eat. This will help keep hunger at bay and prevent the temptation to order too much food.

Additionally, if you have a specific dietary restriction or preference, eating beforehand can help ensure that you don’t end up settling for an unhealthy option simply because it’s the only thing on the menu that fits your needs.

Pros of Eating Something Beforehand Cons of Eating Something Beforehand
Helps prevent overeating You may feel too full to enjoy your meal
Allows time to choose a healthier option on the menu You may still feel hungry
Helps accommodate dietary restrictions/preferences You may need to plan ahead to ensure you have time for a snack before heading out

By eating something beforehand, you can set yourself up for a successful and enjoyable dining experience without sacrificing your health goals. For more tips on incorporating mindfulness into your eating habits, check out our article on incorporating mindfulness into eating.

Making Healthy Choices

Making Healthy Choices
When dining out, it’s important to make healthy choices. However, with so many tempting options on restaurant menus, it can be challenging to stick to your eating plan. But making healthy choices doesn’t have to be difficult. By following a few simple tips, you can enjoy your meal without compromising your health goals. These tips include asking for modifications, watching your portions, and choosing lean protein and vegetables. By making these choices, you can maintain a balanced diet and feel good about what you eat. Additionally, making healthy choices can support mindful eating, which helps you stay present and aware during meals. To learn more about mindful eating, check out our article on Mindful Eating vs Intuitive Eating or explore our 10 Mindful Eating Exercises.

Ask for Modifications

When dining out, don’t be afraid to ask for modifications to your meal. Many restaurants are willing to accommodate requests such as substituting sides or leaving off certain toppings. Here are some tips to help you confidently make modifications at a restaurant:

  • Be polite and explain your dietary restrictions or preferences. For example, you can say, “I am gluten-free, can I substitute the pasta for a gluten-free option?”
  • Look for key words on the menu that suggest unhealthy preparation methods, such as fried or battered. Ask if the food can be grilled or baked instead.
  • Make sure to ask about sauces and dressings, as they can be high in calories and unhealthy fats. Ask for them to be served on the side so that you can control the amount you consume.

Remember that it’s important to be assertive when making modifications to your order. By doing so, you can make healthier choices that align with your dietary needs and preferences. And if you struggle with mindless eating, making modifications can help you become more aware of what you’re putting into your body.

Watch Your Portions

When dining out, it’s important to watch your portions and not overeat. Restaurants often serve large portions that can lead to overconsumption of calories. Here are some tips for controlling your portions:

Tip Description
Share Your Meal Many restaurants serve large portions that are enough for two people. Consider sharing a meal with a friend or taking half of your meal home to enjoy later.
Avoid the Bread Basket The bread basket can be tempting, but it’s often high in calories and can fill you up before your meal arrives. Consider skipping it altogether or limiting yourself to just one piece.
Use Smaller Plates Smaller plates can help you eat less without feeling deprived. Many restaurants offer appetizer or “small plate” options that can be a good choice for a main meal.
Box Up Half If you have trouble resisting large portions, ask the server to box up half of your meal before it even arrives. This way you can enjoy your meal without the temptation to overeat.
Stop Eating When Full It’s important to listen to your body and stop eating when you feel full. Don’t feel like you have to finish everything on your plate just because it’s there.

By using these tips to control your portions, you can enjoy your meal out without feeling guilty or overstuffed. Remember to listen to your body and stop eating when you feel full, even if there’s still food left on your plate.

Choose Lean Protein

When it comes to ordering protein at a restaurant, it’s important to choose wisely in order to stay on track with your health goals. Here are some tips for choosing lean protein:

  • Opt for grilled or roasted options: When deciding on what protein to order, look for grilled or roasted options as opposed to fried or breaded options. This will help cut down on unnecessary calories and saturated fat.
  • Choose white meats over red meats: White meats such as chicken or turkey are typically leaner options than red meats such as beef or pork. If you do opt for red meat, choose lean cuts such as sirloin or tenderloin.
  • Go for seafood: Seafood such as salmon or shrimp are great options for lean protein, as they are low in saturated fat and high in omega-3 fatty acids which are great for heart health.
  • Avoid creamy sauces: Creamy sauces can add unnecessary calories and fat to your meal. Instead, opt for lighter sauces such as tomato-based or vinegar-based options.

By selecting lean protein options when dining out, you can stay on track with your health goals and make mindful choices that will benefit your body.

Opt for Vegetables

One of the best options when dining out is to choose vegetables as a side dish or even as the main course. Vegetables are packed with essential nutrients that our bodies need to function properly. They are also low in calories and high in fiber, which makes us feel fuller for longer periods of time. By choosing vegetables as the main course in your meal, you’ll be able to control your portion sizes and ensure that you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals.

Here are some tips to help you opt for vegetables when dining out:

Tip Explanation
1. Look for Veggie-Centric Dishes Check the menu for dishes that are primarily made up of vegetables. You can also do a quick search online for vegetarian or vegan restaurants in your area.
2. Request Extra Greens When ordering a salad, ask for extra greens or vegetables to be added. This will make the salad more filling and nutritious.
3. Swap Out Starchy Sides Instead of choosing starchy sides like pasta or rice, opt for vegetables like roasted sweet potatoes or grilled asparagus.
4. Choose Vegetable-Based Appetizers Many restaurants offer vegetable-based appetizers like hummus or roasted vegetables. These are great options to start your meal with and they’ll help you reach your daily vegetable intake.
5. Ask for a Veggie Plate If you don’t see any vegetable-based entrees on the menu, ask your server if they can create a plate of different vegetable dishes for you.

Choosing vegetables when dining out is a great way to stay healthy and stick to your nutrition goals. By following these tips, you’ll be able to make delicious and nutritious choices that will satisfy both your taste buds and your body.

Practicing Mindful Eating

Practicing Mindful Eating
As we dine out, it’s easy to get lost in conversation or distractions and rush through meals without even realizing what we’re putting in our mouths. However, mindful eating encourages us to pay closer attention and savor every bite. By practicing mindful eating, we can improve our relationship with food and better understand our body’s needs. Here are some helpful tips to get started.

Slow Down

One of the key aspects of practicing mindful eating when dining out is to slow down. Eating mindfully requires that you eat slowly and focus on your food. This will allow you to genuinely enjoy your meal and will also help you recognize when you feel full. Here are some tips for slowing down:

  • Savor each bite: Take the time to fully appreciate and enjoy each bite of food. Pay attention to the texture, flavor, and aroma.
  • Chew properly: Chew your food thoroughly before swallowing. This will aid in digestion and also help you to feel more satisfied.
  • Put your fork down between bites: Place your fork down on the table in between bites. This will encourage you to slow down and savor your food.
  • Take breaks: Take a few breaks during your meal to rest and assess how full you feel. This will allow you to better tune into your body’s signals and eat to satisfaction.

By slowing down and savoring each bite, you will be able to fully enjoy your meal while also practicing mindful eating. This will help you to avoid overeating and encourage you to eat only until you feel satisfied. Remember, dining out should be a pleasurable experience, and mindful eating can help you achieve this.

Enjoy Your Food

When it comes to dining out, it’s easy to get caught up in the social aspect of the experience and forget to enjoy your food. However, practicing mindful eating means fully savoring each bite and taking pleasure in the flavors, textures, and aromas of your meal. Here are some tips to help you enjoy your food while dining out:

– Use all of your senses: Take time to appreciate the presentation of your meal, inhale the aroma, and savor each bite slowly. Avoid distractions such as your phone or the television, and focus solely on your food.

– Try new things: Eating out provides an opportunity to try new and exciting dishes. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and explore new flavors and textures.

– Express gratitude: Take a moment to express gratitude for the food on your plate. It may sound cheesy, but acknowledging the effort that went into the meal can not only help you appreciate it more, but also create positive feelings around food.

– Don’t feel guilty: Guilt and shame can easily ruin the enjoyment of your meal. Instead of fixating on calories or feeling guilty about indulging in a treat, focus on savoring each bite and enjoying the experience.

Remember, dining out should be an enjoyable experience. By practicing mindful eating and fully savoring each bite, you can enhance the experience and create a positive relationship with food.

Listen to Your Body

Being mindful of your body’s signals can be a helpful tool when dining out. This involves paying attention to your physical sensations and being aware of when you are full. Consider the following tips when practicing mindful eating and listening to your body:

  • Tune in to Your Hunger: Before starting your meal, take a moment to check in with yourself and assess your hunger level. Are you ravenous, or could you could wait a bit longer to eat?
  • Pause Between Bites: Take breaks during your meal to assess your level of fullness. This helps you tune into your body and stay aware of your hunger and satisfaction levels.
  • Stop Before You’re Full: It can be tempting to finish everything on your plate, but it’s important to stop before you’re uncomfortably full. This can prevent feelings of discomfort or sluggishness later on.
  • Be Mindful of Your Senses: Focus on the sensory experience of eating – the taste, texture, and aroma of your food. Doing so can help you stay present and aware of the signals your body is sending you.

By being mindful and listening to your body’s signals, you can make more informed choices about what and how much you eat when dining out. Remember, it’s not about deprivation or restriction – it’s about finding balance and enjoying your food while also staying in tune with your body’s needs.

Coping with Cravings

As much as we try to make healthy choices while dining out, sometimes cravings for less-than-healthy options can still find their way into our minds. It can be tempting to give in to these cravings, but it’s important to find ways to stay on track with our health goals. Dealing with these cravings can be a challenge, especially when we’re surrounded by delicious options. But with a few strategies in mind, we can maintain control over our food choices and feel good about our decisions in the long run.

Have a Plan

One of the best ways to cope with cravings while dining out is to have a plan in place beforehand. This can help you stay on track with your healthy eating goals and resist temptations. Here are some practical tips for creating a plan:

  • Identify your triggers: What are the situations or emotions that tend to lead to unhealthy food choices? Perhaps it’s stress, social pressure, or a particular type of food. By identifying your triggers, you can come up with a plan to manage them.
  • Pre-decide what you’ll eat: Take a look at the menu ahead of time and decide on a healthy option that will satisfy your cravings. This could be a grilled chicken salad, fish tacos with a side of veggies, or a veggie stir-fry. Having a specific plan in place can help you avoid the temptation to make an unhealthy choice.
  • Bring a healthy snack: If you’re worried about getting hungry while dining out and making an impulsive choice, consider bringing a healthy snack with you. This could be a piece of fruit, a bag of nuts, or a low-sugar protein bar. Snacking on something healthy beforehand can help you feel more satisfied and less likely to overindulge.

By having a plan in place, you’re setting yourself up for success when it comes to mindful eating while dining out. Remember to stay focused on your goals and be kind to yourself if you make an occasional slip-up. With practice, you can enjoy delicious meals while still maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Distract Yourself

When facing cravings during a restaurant outing, it can be helpful to distract yourself to redirect your attention away from the tempting food. Here are some practical tips to consider:

Tip Description
Engage in conversation Talk to your dining companions about engaging topics, such as recent trips or hobbies. This can shift your focus away from the food and onto social interactions.
Play a game Bring a deck of cards or a travel-sized board game to play with your friends or family. This can keep both your hands and mind occupied during the meal.
Focus on the atmosphere Take in the sights and sounds of the restaurant, such as the decor, music, or conversation of other diners. This can create a more mindful and enjoyable dining experience.
Take a break Excuse yourself from the table and take a short walk or glance through the windows. This can provide a mental break and let your cravings pass without giving in to them.

By following these tactics, you can successfully distract yourself from the tempting foods and make healthier choices during your restaurant outing. Remember that building mindfulness and self-awareness can take time and practice, but with consistent effort, you can find the strategies that work best for you.

Choose a Healthier Option

When you find yourself struggling with a craving or contemplating an unhealthy option, consider choosing a healthier alternative. Here are some ideas to help you make a smarter choice:

  • Look for the Lighter Menu Options: Many restaurants now offer a selection of low-calorie or low-fat meals that may be lower in calories and more nutrient-dense than other options on the menu.
  • Swap Out Ingredients: If an item sounds delicious but comes with a side of fries, consider swapping the side for a salad or roasted vegetables instead to add more fiber and nutrients to your meal.
  • Choose Grilled or Baked: Dishes that are grilled, baked or steamed are healthier options than those that are fried, sautéed, or breaded.
  • Opt for Whole Grains: If you are ordering a sandwich, wrap or burger, choose a whole grain option instead of one made with white bread for added fiber and nutrition.
  • Go for Broth-Based Soups: If you are in the mood for soup, opt for a broth-based option, which is usually lower in calories and fat than cream-based varieties.
  • Load Up on Veggies: Consider ordering a salad or vegetable-based dish as your main course, or adding extra vegetables to your meal as a side dish.

Remember, making a healthier choice doesn’t mean sacrificing flavor or enjoyment. By choosing a healthy alternative, you can still enjoy your meal while promoting your overall health and wellness.


In conclusion, mindful eating when dining out can be a challenging but rewarding practice. By planning ahead and making healthy choices, it is possible to enjoy a delicious meal while still being mindful of one’s body and health. Practicing mindful eating can also help manage cravings and prevent overeating. However, it is important to remember that it is not about being perfect, but rather about making small, sustainable changes that can lead to better overall health and well-being. It may take some time and effort to develop the habit of mindful eating, but with patience and persistence, it can become a natural part of one’s lifestyle. So next time you dine out, remember to take a few moments to slow down, enjoy your food, and listen to your body. Your mind and body will thank you for it.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is mindful eating?

Mindful eating is the practice of paying attention to your food, savoring each bite, and being present in the moment while you eat.

Why is it important to practice mindful eating when dining out?

Dining out can make it easy to overindulge and make unhealthy choices. Practicing mindful eating can help you make healthier choices and prevent overeating.

How can I check the menu before dining out?

You can usually find menus online or by calling the restaurant ahead of time to inquire. This can help you plan ahead and make healthier choices.

Should I eat something before going to the restaurant?

Yes, eating a healthy snack or meal beforehand can help you avoid overeating or making unhealthy choices at the restaurant.

What should I do if I want to make modifications to my meal?

Ask your server if the restaurant can make modifications to your meal, such as swapping out a side dish or dressing. Most restaurants are happy to accommodate dietary restrictions or preferences.

How can I watch my portions while dining out?

Ask for a to-go box at the beginning of the meal and pack up half of your food to take home. This can help prevent overeating and ensure you have a healthy meal for later.

Why is it important to choose lean protein?

Lean protein, such as chicken or fish, can help you feel full and satisfied while also providing important nutrients for your body.

Why should I opt for vegetables while dining out?

Vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber, which can help you feel full and satisfied without overeating or consuming too many calories.

How can I cope with cravings while dining out?

Having a plan for coping with cravings, distracting yourself, and choosing healthier options can help you stay on track and avoid overindulging in unhealthy foods.

What are some ways to enjoy your food while practicing mindful eating?

You can enjoy your food by savoring each bite, paying attention to the flavors and textures, and being present in the moment while you eat.


Leave a Comment