Eat Out and Lose Weight


Nagina Abdullah


February 22, 2015

Man eating burger.

A friend of mine recently came into town for a short trip. We were able to meet for dinner with a few other close friends that had not seen each for years, and I wanted to find a great place that we would all enjoy and remember. I made reservations at a trendy seafood restaurant in the Meatpacking district in NYC. I thoroughly researched the menu and reviews so I would know exactly what to order (I’m type A like that – plus i love food!).

A few of the things that got great reviews included the crispy shrimp. This is what some of the reviews on Yelp said:

The crispy shrimp which was so delicious.
Definitely get – oysters,
crispy shrimp
The crispy spicy shrimp appetizer is also great.
Crispy shrimp is a hit!

I was definitely going to try the crispy shrimp, ESPECIALLY after seeing those reviews! When the waiter came over he also recommended the cripsy shrimp. We asked him for specials and he said, “Our Mahi Mahi Wonton Taco” is one of their most popular dishes.

I heard myself thinking. . .
“I want to let go tonight — Im out with friends!”
“I want to try the best dishes here — I dont want to pass this opportunity up!”

So. . .I ordered both the crispy shrimp and the wonton tacos for the table. I ordered a fish dish that sounded nice for my entrée. It was served with a creamy vegetable basmati rice. I didn’t ask any questions to the waiter because I didn’t want to make a big deal about my order in front of the group and give off a “picky” energy. I assumed the creamy rice would be on the side and I would just have a few small bites.

My friends and I started chatting, and the waiter came by with a complementary pretzel appetizer with multiple spicy mustards. Spicy is one of my (many) weaknesses, and so I had to try the pretzel — dipped into each of the 3 different mustard sauces (to see which one I liked best of course!).

When the crispy shrimp came, they were definitely crispy. They were breaded and fried (I hadnt asked the waiter about them so I didn’t know what to expect). And the wonton tacos had a gorgeous, light, flaky, and FRIED shell.

When I ate these seemingly delicious fried delights, though, they just didn’t taste out of this world. I started to get a bit doubtful of the Yelp reviewers I trusted. Since the apps were right in front of me, I felt like I had to eat them.

When my fish came, it was stuffed with the creamy sauce and rice, and I literally couldnt escape from the heavy ingredients — they were intertwined in each bite.

I had a lovely conversation with my friends over dinner, but I started to feel more and more tired and uncomfortable in my clothes the more I ate. My stomach started expanding because of the food I was eating. I felt like all the workouts I had done the past couple days went out the window.

When I left the restaurant I felt even worse, as the food slowly started digesting, making me feel even more lethargic. When I walked in my house, I literally wanted to go to sleep immediately.

The next day I looked back and thought about what happened.

I had wanted to let go, and I had wanted to try the “best” dishes in the house. But it wasnt worth the lack of energy and discomfort I felt for hours and hours afterward.

Plus, those dishes werent even really that good! Some people who write reviews are used to eating certain kinds of food, namely fattening, creamy and oily. I just dont eat like that everyday, so why would I enjoy that when I go out?

The following week, I took a client out to eat, who has lost 15 pounds — a lot of it in her thighs and face — following my coaching advice and feels so much more confidence and positive energy. People at work frequently comment on how much weight she has lost. She loves hearing this — it makes her feel even better about her body and herself!

We also ate at a trendy restaurant in the Meatpacking, and due to my recent experience I had no hesitation about ordering foods that were a little lighter. We ordered a tasty Salmon Tartare, and Avocado Salad with dressing on the side for our appetizers which we both loved. I had a tasty fish with vegetables and sauce on the side for my entree, which I modified by asking the server.

I definitely wanted a drink so I ordered a gimlet, which is vodka and lime juice — low sugar and tasty. . followed by a sangria, which is red wine and fruit.

During the meal, I felt light, which gave me more energy to contribute to our conversation. My mind was so much more awake and I was much more involved in our dinner conversation — and that tired and overly full feeling didn’t come over me.

After I left the dinner, I still felt energetic, and when I walked in the door, I still had energy to tell my husband about my day and finish a few things around my house before resting for the night.

Sometimes you have to go through the pain of not enjoying yourself to realize its time to make a change.

If you prefer feeling light and energetic, then the fried appetizers and heavy specials dripping in creamy sauces may not be what YOU prefer, even though some Yelpers may love it!

I like to focus on eating for ENERGY.

For many of us ambitious women, eating out is frequent and is a necessity of our careers and social lives. It is possible to have a great time, eat food you enjoy, feel more energy and even lose weight WHILE eating out.

Below are 3 specific tips to eat out and lose weight, including:

  • My 4 recommended appetizers
  • 7 menu terms to look for and 9 to avoid
  • 6 low-sugar beverages (including 4 alcoholic drinks/cocktails) to order

All of my recommendations are specific to losing weight and feeling more energy (and they’re also delicious!).

1. Yes — Snack on Appetizers — these ones!

In most restaurants, a delicious bread bowl, pretzels and mustard or chips and salsa are placed in the middle of the table — or someone orders a fried calamari appetizer or something else similar (e.g., crispy shrimp!). As you start catching up, telling stories or discussing the day’s meetings, its easy to reach for a few pieces of calamari or bread with olive oil or butter, and more than a few when the food takes long to come.

We DO need something to snack on while were waiting for food — but bread and fried appetizers fill us up with empty calories and give us a heavy feeling — they will immediately cause stomach bloating and expansion.

Since it is almost impossible to control our hands when the bread bowl is right in front of us, order a healthy appetizer immediately to avoid the temptation of goodies on the table. Order a tasty salad, tuna or salmon tartare, or hummus with veggies which will keep your hands busy and your body light.

2. Sauce on the Side & Grilled Please — INCLUDES SPECIFIC WEIGHT-LOSS MENU TERMS!

Recently, I was traveling on a consulting assignment and my team of 20 took me out to dinner at a seafood place on the Boston Harbor to celebrate my birthday. A colleague of mine and I ordered the same thing — a beautiful lemon sole fish, but I requested my sauce on the side. When the meal came, her fish was smothered in a buttery, rich, extremely heavy lemon sauce. She ended up setting her dish aside and sharing my dish, which was light, flaky and tasty, and where we could control the amount of sauce.

Many times healthy options are covered in high amounts of oil, butter and calories. Look for terms such as grilled, baked, or steamed, instead of fried or sautéed, and always ask for the sauce on the side so you can control the quantity. If its not on the menu, ask!

Weight-Loss Menu Terms
Weight-Loss Bloating / Weight-Gain
Lightly sautéed
Seasoned with {herb or
Pastry crust
Pot Pie


3. Lighten up your drinks

Many of us (especially myself) look forward to relaxing and loosening up with a drink or more after a long day. However, tremendous amounts of sugar and calories are often hidden in the drinks we order when were out to dinner, including many cocktails, margaritas and juices.

For healthier options, unsweetened iced tea and water are excellent beverages. If youre in the mood for alcohol, try lower-sugar options such as:

  • Red wine
  • Vodka with lime juice (gimlet)
  • Vodka with club soda with lemon/lime
  • Gin and club soda with lemon/lime

In my next post, Ill recommend my go-to eating out breakfast / brunch dish for those weekend days when you want to “treat yourself” but also want to feel energy.

Please leave your comments below. What is your weakness when you eat out? Which of my tips will help you the most?


Avatar photo

Nagina Sethi Abdullah, BA, MBA

Nagina Abdullah is a health coach for middle-aged women and professionals. She coaches women to boost their metabolism naturally, shed pounds and keep them off. Her work with weight loss clients led to the creation of Masala Body, an online weight loss platform that provides an easy and accessible system that helps women sustainably lose weight. She has helped over 1200 women successfully lose from 10-80 lbs and create a sustainable lifestyle change. Nagina earned her degree in Molecular and Cell Biology from UC Berkeley.

Reader Interactions


  1. marlise says

    Yes, definitely the sauce on the side. The other day we ordered a salad and it had so much dressing that I didn’t even enjoy it. I find that as my eating habits have changed, I’ve begun to enjoy eating out less and less because of the heavy bloated feeling I get in the end.

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