Going Out to Dinner? 6 Restaurant Calorie Bombs You Need to Skip

Okay, so you’re on a diet. But life doesn’t stop. The weekend’s approaching, you have friends and they want dinner. In fact, your group might love to meet up at one place in particular—the one with the amazing salmon, to-die-for appetizer or, of course, chocolate molten lava cake. Meeting up for dinner is like the go-to event when making plans. It’s an opportunity to get out, catch up and just forget about an incredibly busy, stressful week.

Unfortunately, this is where anyone on a diet finds themselves in a bind. It’s so tempting to just toss all caution to the wind the minute you see the featured entrees listed at the hostess booth, or the second the waiter asks you what you want to drink. Having friends that don’t share the same health goals can make it even harder.

So, what do you do? We could say, “willpower to the rescue,” but we know that’s not gonna cut it. So, focus on why you are actually there. Hint: It’s not the chips and salsa. You made plans with your friends, to be with your friends. Enjoy the time you have with them because obsessing over food was never really part of the agenda. Check out the restaurant’s website before you head over to get a glimpse of the healthy options. Many offer the nutritional information now. If you have a clear idea of what you should order going in, there’s no way to slip up when you’re going out! The Nutrisystem Eating Out Guide is also an excellent tool, providing all sorts of suggestions for making this decision and keeping diets on-plan, for any of your life plans.

Whatever you do, skip these six calorie bombs to avoid total diet destruction:

1. The Booze

Alcohol is any diet’s worst enemy, and we’re sure you’ve heard it before. A round of drinks equates to empty calories, roughly a hundred and twenty at a time, without the fun mixers. It might also leave you feeling horrible the next day (both sick and guilty). If you have an exercise regimen, chances are, you won’t even feel capable of taking it on after a night out drinking with friends. Worst of all, the booze you have out with your pals has the capacity to mess with your inhibitions and lead to a chain reaction of diet mistakes. Ever go out with your friends (and healthy intentions) to grab a salad and, after a few drinks, end up ordering the loaded pizza? This isn’t an uncommon story. Save yourself from the mess and order water or a zero-calorie, flavored beverage. If you must have a drink, stick with one light beer or glass of dry wine, then get back to the aqua.

2. Bread and Butter

This is the hard one. Every good restaurant has a waiter leave a beautiful assortment of bread slices or rolls on the table with butter for spreading. This situation is a carb-lover’s dream and worst nightmare, all bundled up into one health fiasco. The refined, simple carbs in a slice of bread might lead to instant satisfaction, almost a sugar high if you will, but just one will rarely do. The fiber is lost, along with the rest of the nutrients during processing. It won’t fill you up, so the waiter will keep filling up your basket. The butter: Just more calories and fat. Don’t be afraid to ask for a plate of fresh veggies to nosh on. While it may sound silly, they’ll most likely be happy to oblige, and you’ll feel better munching on something that keeps your blood sugar stable and your waistline in check. Or, have some at home before you head out so you aren’t ravenous by the time the bread basket rolls around.

3. Guacamole

Don’t get us wrong, we love avocados. In fact, we have a whole list on The Leaf of brilliant ways to use avocados. Avocado contains all sorts of nutrients and monounsaturated fats to keep you lean and your heart healthy. But, guacamole is the avocado-plus recipe: It’s avocado, plus a lot of extra ingredients (the sky’s the limit) that the chef of the day feels like tossing in. Fruit, cheese and bacon…. are all additions that can turn a basic recipe into a restaurant’s signature appetizer. Everyone’s always looking for the new thing, and restaurants, a way to stand out. Pair it with tortilla chips and you’re done for!

Guacamole is absolutely addicting and even the nutritional powerhouse, avocado, is something to be eaten in moderation because of the high calorie-count. It’s easy to lose sight of how much you’re eating very quickly. An order of guacamole and tortilla chips at a popular chain restaurant gets close to 1500 calories! Go out with your best bud, and the two of you have taken down 750 calories before the main course. Look for the plain, untouched fruit and have a tablespoon of that mashed (one Extra).

4. Fatty Salads

Sorry to burst your bubble, but even the salads at restaurants require a sharp eye, when you’re on a diet. Lettuce, tomatoes and onions are all wonderfully nutritious and best enjoyed fresh in a bowl, but, when your favorite joint gets fancy with their creations, all bets are off. Fried tortilla strips, honey roasted nuts, cheeses and creamy dressings take the calorie and fat counts higher than you could even imagine. Portion distortion is also at play, with a meal usually fit for three.

The Nutrisystem Eating Out Guide sites Applebee’s Grilled Shrimp ‘N Spinach Salad as a sneaky diet saboteur, worse than their seven-ounce sirloin. This seemingly innocent diet option has 1,000 calories and 66 grams of fat. Who could’ve guessed?

Our suggestion? Go as raw and basic as possible. Stick to the fresh vegetables, fruits (one cup of berries is a SmartCarb on Nutrisystem) and two tablespoons of fat-free dressings (one Extra on Nutrisystem). Skip the crispy carb toppings like tortilla strips and croutons. Limit the cheese (to one slice or ounce of low-fat, a PowerFuel on Nutrisystem) and ask for chicken or shrimp prepared plain (two ounces of cooked chicken is a PowerFuel, while three ounces of shrimp is a PowerFuel). If there are eggs, just have one as a PowerFuel for the evening.

5. Wings

Chicken wings are rarely grilled. They are spiced up and deep fried for an appetizer with a nutritional makeup that could ruin anyone’s appetite. Just one serving of medium buffalo wings at a well-known restaurant chain packs 1,090 calories! Want to know how many are from fat? 500. One night out for dinner should never take over your calorie allotment for the day, and this one gets mighty close.

This should be eye-opening, especially due to the fact that most store brands of hot sauce come with a big, fat zero in the nutrition label. Wings are pretty much all skin to begin with (why you bite the meat out from so many of them) from there, the frying drives them into the grave.

If you really love wings, experiment with an air fryer at home. The Leaf has an amazing recipe for Air Fryer Drumsticks. At the restaurant, ask for some hummus or shrimp cocktail instead. A quarter cup of hummus is a SmartCarb on Nutrisystem and you can pair it with all the fresh vegetables your heart desires. Three ounces of shrimp is a PowerFuel on Nutrisystem and one tablespoon of cocktail sauce translates to an Extra.

6. “Pan-Fried,” “Scalloped,” “Battered” or “Creamy”

The Nutrisystem Eating Out Guide is on-point with this one. The way a food is prepared can spell the difference between a “diet do” and a “diet don’t.” Anything pan fried, scalloped, battered or creamy might as well be labeled “fat-bathed.” All of these cooking methods suggest that the fish, poultry or potato has been greased up with butter, oil or lard. And, your diet goals most likely aren’t on the chef’s mind… Flavor is.

So, what’s an extra stick or half-cup? Just about a massive calorie load, you don’t want. Instead, look for words like “roasted,” “grilled” or “baked.” You’ll still get flavor, but the taste will come mostly from the quality of the foods themselves, not whatever suspicious fat they’re masked in.

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