10 Requests to Add to Your Dining Repertoire


By: , SparkPeople Blogger

No matter what restaurant you choose, you can find something healthy to eat, as long as you know a few magic phrases, says Jenna Bergen, author of "Your Big Fat Boyfriend: How to Stay Thin When Dating a Diet Disaster."

Here's how Jenna sticks to her healthy eating strategy even when her boyfriends wants wings or pizza:

Speaking up can make a huge difference in slimming down. Go ahead and be picky when placing your order.

Ten Requests to Add to Your Regular Dining Repertoire
1. Dressing on the side
2. Grilled instead of fried
3. Steamed, not sautéed
4. Hold the bacon, butter, or sour cream (or ask for them on the side)
5. Easy on the sauce
6. Dry toast, jelly on the side
7. Egg whites
8. A baked potato instead of fries--or, better yet, a side salad with low-fat or nonfat dressing
9. Light on the mayo, or fat-free mustard instead
10. Don't butter the hamburger bun

Jenna, a Spinning instructor and yoga fanatic from Philadelphia, had always been a healthy eater. Then one day she tried on her favorite jeans and realized they no longer fit. She had gained 13 pounds over the course of her relationship.

From sharing his nachos during the game, to munching popcorn together at the movies, ssnacking on peanuts at the ballpark, ordering takeout on weekends and skipping morning workouts to cuddle--those calories and missed workouts take a toll.

Jenna knew she wasn't alone and wrote "Your Big Fat Boyfriend: How to Stay Thin When Dating a Diet Disaster" (Quirk Books, January 2009, $14.95).

For more tips, or to buy the book, visit bigfatboyfriend.com.

Those seem like easy ways to shave off some calories. Do you make any specific requests at restaurants?

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  • 54
    "Split it"/Share a plate - my husband and I do this a lot at places where we know the portions are "huge"! Or he might order the big item, and I might order a small bowl of soup. Then he can have some of my soup and I will have some of the larger meal (or split down the middle, depends on how hungry I am. But usually if I'm wanting to split, I'm probably ambivalent about eating a lot anyway.). - 2/15/2017   11:44:23 PM
    I would never eat like this, just exercise portion control. Life is too short to eat bad food. - 11/25/2014   2:20:23 PM
    I always request fruit or vegetable instead of fries, also no cheese, bacon or mayo on sandwhiches. I dont usually order an entree but if I did I would skip the sour cream and butter on the side. I already order my toast dry and usually get egg beaters or egg whites instead of whole eggs. I hadn't thought about ordering grilled instead of fried nor ordering the bun dry toasted but will definitely add those requests to my list. - 12/4/2009   1:23:14 PM
    Wow, yes I really could have used this book some years ago when I dated a guy who constantly fed me in addition to all the things listed in the article. I gained an enormous amount of weight. He served my plate and although it was less than his it was still way too much food. I'm going to take note of this whenever anyone serves a plate of food for me including a resturant! - 12/3/2009   9:30:29 AM
  • 50
    I'm vegan so I always remove cheese/butter/eggs and any meat products if I need to. I don't eat out that much but I always tell them no oil at Noodles and Co., order small sizes, get a burrito bowl instead of burrito at Chipotle (saves you 300 calories!)... little stuff like that. I think the biggest thing that helps, though, is not eating animal products. Dairy is especially fatty and calorie-packed. By not eating any of it, my meal is inherently less rich/fattening. - 7/17/2009   12:56:45 PM
  • 49
    "Lunch portion, please." - 6/1/2009   6:49:17 AM
  • 48
    I ALWAYS make special requests. I have requested salad dressing on the side for nearly my whole life. Recently I forgot to request "dry" at Denny's and McDonalds for my toast and english muffin. Oops. I hate the oily "butter" they use. If I went to Sizzler, it was "no oil" in my seafood prep. Little things add up! - 5/31/2009   1:23:28 AM
    simple yet beneficial

    thanx - 3/8/2009   1:44:42 PM
  • 46
    thank you for the tips, my family eats out quite a bit, my fave tip is not to butter the buns, I don't usually think of that. I do some of these tips but keep em coming. - 3/7/2009   2:52:58 PM
  • 45
    Thanks for the info.

    Keep up the good writing. - 3/7/2009   3:41:04 AM
    Good tips and something I already do but I also don't deprive myself when I go out if the nutritional value is meaningful - 3/6/2009   3:13:54 PM
  • 43
    I never thought of the "jelly on the side" idea! And they put butter on hamburger buns?? Wow! And I thought I knew most of it! Good article! - 3/6/2009   3:03:15 PM
  • 42
    We have a treat night every Saturday which either involved us going out for dinner or staying in and cooking something that we wouldn't normally have in our weekly meals. When we do go out we still try to stay on the healthier side even though it's a "treat" and was happy to see that alot of the rules she listed above we follow :) - 3/6/2009   9:31:55 AM
  • 41
    I generally take half of it home for next days lunch or supper. Most restaurants serve huge servings even if its healthy foods. Hubby and I used to share the main meal and get a side salad or soup. I usually don't have to many problems if I eat out, which is not as often now. - 3/5/2009   8:26:24 PM
  • 40
    Today I went to Denny's with friends. I hadn't been to one in years. Well, I asked if I could order fruit as one of my Grand Slam options, and they told me which fruits they had! So there's one high-fat helping dodged.

    I should have ordered the pancakes sans butter, though. They came with a big glob of whipped butter melting all over. Yummy, but evil. I scraped off what I could, and only ate half of the cakes. Come to think of it, I could have just removed the top pancake and eaten the butter-free bottom one. I drizzled only about a third of the syrup on top. I think you could drizzle it in a little puddle and dip, though, like with salad dressing, so it doesn't just soak in. I may try that. - 3/5/2009   7:36:43 PM
    I usually order off the children's menu, request a half order or split a meal. Many ideas throughout this comment page are great. Thanks for all the great info. - 3/5/2009   6:47:52 PM
  • 38
    i would dump the toxic boyfriend - 3/5/2009   6:17:50 PM
    Yes I do make requests. I always ask for water and ask for two plates for sharing if the sizes are huge. - 3/5/2009   3:15:21 PM
  • 36
    Though I haven't actually done this, you can ask the waiter to remove the bread basket or not bring it out at all. If you MUST have bread you can ask them to bring it with your meal so you don't scarf down three pieces before your food gets there (like I did Tuesday at Texas Roadhouse, ha). I'm surprised the tips didn't include requesting water to drink. You can also ask for a to-go box to be brought with your meal so you can put half of it away before you even start. Most portions are enough for two full meals (sometimes even more). Next time I get a burger I'll ask them not to butter the bun, never even thought of that! I do always get dressing on the side, even when it's the low cal vinaigrette. I just hate when my lettuce is drowning in dressing, gross. - 3/5/2009   2:35:17 PM
  • 35
    In reply to:
    "I've always been a bit skeptical of "grillled versus fried" in a restaurant. I mean, they just put the piece of meat in a grill pan...with oil/fat or else it will stick...can there really be that much calorie difference in real life? They don't have a gas or a charcoal grill back there in the kitchen!
    I also often wonder about "fried versus sauteed"...you sautee in a pan with fat, you fry in a pan with fat...what's the difference, really??"
    I always was too; I didn't understand the huge difference in calories it is to grill or fry. But if you grill it you don't have to add all that fat/grease. Did you know that 1 Tablespoon of butter or oil is about 100 calories (or more)? It makes a big difference; the food sucks up all that oil/butter. You CAN cook without a ton of fat/oil and without it sticking to the pan. At home, I use a canola oil spray, to keep my food from sticking. If I'm making grilled cheese, I use something like smart balance lite (only 50 calories for 1 T, and it seems to go a lot further for some reason). As far as at restaurants, I usually just try to pick out the least of the evils, because I don't want to be a big pain with all my special requests. Also, I never know how they prepare a lot of the meals and I usually am with someone who gets annoyed by my taking forever deciding and they'd be annoyed with my asking 20 questions about how they cook the meals, too.
    But if I go to Sizzlers, I do request the steamed veggies (which they don't usually offer as a choice but they have it available), instead of the fries or potato or rice. Steamed veggies are MUCH lower in calories (it's usually broccoli, way low in calories).
    Another thing about grilled vs. fried is usually the fried has breading too, which adds a lot more calories as well. When you're trying to create a calorie deficit to lose weight, every calorie counts, even the 50-100 "measly" calories you get from the extra butter/oil from one meal (although at restaurants it's probably more like 200-300 calories more at times!). It's easy to go way overboard on the "little" things throughout a whole day.
    - 3/5/2009   12:19:09 PM
    All great tips - I've eating only half my meal for some time now - it's even infected my DH -- frequently, he ALSO asks for a doggy bag!
    Better for both of us!
    - 3/5/2009   12:11:35 PM
  • 33
    Do you know as a chef that a lot of them do not think that people want to eat health.. Or do not care!!! it is true.. i can take a high in fat recipe and make it low fat and have people not tell the difference.. so it can be done.. I did this with my boss and he told me that i had to make it the high fat because people would like the high fat verses the low fat.. what a load that was and a joke.. with all the obese people out there be in that mix would love to see low fat low cal things.. i have seen that there are some restaurants like applebees that have weight watchers on there menu.. and you can get half salads.. the problem is that chef are not willing to go that extra step it would take to learn how to make some things more health... So i say that you need to let them know what you want and need. - 3/5/2009   11:33:26 AM
    I've always been a bit skeptical of "grillled versus fried" in a restaurant. I mean, they just put the piece of meat in a grill pan...with oil/fat or else it will stick...can there really be that much calorie difference in real life? They don't have a gas or a charcoal grill back there in the kitchen!
    I also often wonder about "fried versus sauteed"...you sautee in a pan with fat, you fry in a pan with fat...what's the difference, really?? - 3/5/2009   11:25:38 AM
  • 31
    Thanks so much - Yesterday I stopped at McDonalds and ordered the GRILLED chicken snack w/o mayo - it was exactly what I needed and I didn't go over my eating goals for the day by asking for the RIGHT food! - 3/5/2009   11:00:49 AM
  • 30
    Thank you. I will try these simple tips next time I eat at a restaurant. - 3/5/2009   10:49:48 AM
  • 29
    It's always good to be reminded of these tricks. Eating healthy when eating out is a challenge, but not impossible. Good blog! - 3/5/2009   10:36:15 AM
  • 28
    I have the same problem but I married mine. LOL He is like that also. I usually tell him how many calories he is eating when he takes too much. it does work sometimes and it makes him think about all the is going in his mouth. he doesn't always like it but he laughs. - 3/5/2009   9:07:41 AM
  • 27
    If I don't have a friend to split my meal with I ask for a doggy bag in the being of the meal and half it before I start eating. That way I have another days meal ready for work. - 3/5/2009   8:14:47 AM
  • 26
    Knowing that the "house" salad is mostly iceberg (which has absolutely no nutritional value, but will do in a "pinch" to help you feel fuller) I ask for a Caesar Salad with the dressing on the side as that salad is made with Romaine. Have you seen how much dressing they slather that in?!?! I don't like croutons, so DH will have those and I don't eat their parmesan. If I want a "taste" of the dressing I'll dip the tip of my fork in the dressing before stabbing some Romaine.
    In mexican restaurants I will ask for Fajitas made with NO seasoning - I make my fajitas at home and do use black pepper, garlic powder and onion powder as my seasoning, but know that they use a mix which contains a horrendous amount of sodium.
    I've also recently learned that Applebees "spices" their steaks with some concoction of salt and that you can request it be grilled minus the spices.
    I also drink an abnormal amount of water while at a restaurant - in the course of a 45 minute "dinner" I typically drink 8-10 cups water.
    SOME will argue that it is unhealthy and "oh, you're going to get water poisoning" but that is a HUGE misconception. With the sodium in EVERYTHING that you're served, I truly get very thirsty! Besides, it takes an awful lot of water to get hyperhydration - 2 or 3 gallons in only a FEW MINUTES! (look up the "facts") - 3/5/2009   7:15:34 AM
    Another one: substitute (or remove) the bread. If you're getting an overstuffed burrito, just eat it sans wrap; if it's a bagel sandwich, ask for regular bread instead. Either way, you'll cut out extra calories.

    At Chinese restaurants, I often ask them to use fresh tofu instead of the fried chunks in vegetarian dishes. Sometimes, you can even get a side of steamed veggies instead of rice -- just put your entrée of top. - 3/5/2009   6:52:59 AM
  • 24
    I no longer ask for butter and sour cream on my baked potato; salsa is better for you and VERY YUMMY! - 3/5/2009   6:40:30 AM
  • 23
    I often get an appetizer - if there are any that aren't deep fried - and dessert. That way I get to eat the part I really want anyways without having a day's worth of calories in between. I've become especially fond of restaurants that have dessert shots. All the chocolatey goodness of the big ones, in a single serving size. - 3/5/2009   12:45:51 AM
  • CARLYD89
    i always just get water when i go out!!! then i can have as much as i want and not worry about how much bad stuff i'm putting in me. great tips! - 3/4/2009   11:47:42 PM
  • 21
    Instead of french fries, I get a baked potato. or mashed potatoes and gravy if a baked potato isn't available. Also, I only eat half of my dinner, take the rest home, and more times than not, give the other half to one of my parents, and I only order water to drink at a restaurant. Slightly off topic, but also, I stopped going to all you can eat buffets. - 3/4/2009   9:59:05 PM
  • 20
    2 things I always do:
    1. split a meal with my dinner mate
    2. drink water
    other things I do:
    no condiments, butter or bread
    baked yam when available over all other potatoe options
    baked potatoe when yam not available
    grilled - never fried - 3/4/2009   7:18:15 PM
    so true! getting kids portions or half orders...i've gotten into the habit recently of splitting one meal with my date. it's cheaper and you eat less. then both of you feel better at the end of the meal. - 3/4/2009   5:09:36 PM
  • 18
    i always order grilled instead of fried, and dressing on the side. I need to work on hold the bacon and butter (one of my weaknesses). - 3/4/2009   5:07:34 PM
  • 17
    I love the idea of eating before going to a restaurant and then ordering a healthful salad; saving calories and money! I will try this. - 3/4/2009   2:48:13 PM
  • LISALU910
    I'm not saying these tips aren't good ones, but who doesn't already know this??? - 3/4/2009   2:27:58 PM
  • 15
    I am too picky - 3/4/2009   2:14:23 PM
  • 14
    GREAT TIPS TO KEEP IN MIND THANKS - 3/4/2009   1:50:14 PM
  • 13
  • 12
    My trick when eating out: wherever possible, I look the menu up online before I go and know what I'll be getting by the time I get there... That way I can avoid the ambush of temptation while looking through the menu in the restaurant. - 3/4/2009   1:25:20 PM
  • 11
    This is good advice when you have "Big Fat Coworkers," too! ;) - 3/4/2009   12:54:14 PM
  • 10
    I think I have given people quite a few headaches with all the things I ask for on the side. If they have a healthy menu I order from that. If I am going to something that I know is bad like say Pizza or Chinese Buffet I will have a salad and control my portions like to just one slice. - 3/4/2009   12:47:02 PM
    I tend to eat more when I go out to eat. So I save money and calories by staying home and cooking:) - 3/4/2009   12:36:10 PM
  • 8
    Since eating out is usually more about socializing than it is about food, I try to eat before I even go. Then I'm not hungry at all, and I'll just get a small side salad with dressing on the side and slowly munch on that while everyone else chows down.

    This not only makes sure I get a much healthier meal than anything available in a restaurant, but it also saves a lot of money. - 3/4/2009   12:28:53 PM
  • 7
    From Weight Watchers years ago I learned to just dip your fork into the salad dressing on the side rather than smother it on al the salad. As far as big portions, I also ask for a doggie box with the meal and box what I don't plan to eat before I start.
    I note that it said she uses her eatin out tricks when out with boyfriendS. Is she too fanatical and can't settle on one or do they possibly get tired of her preaching??? - 3/4/2009   11:21:52 AM
  • 6
    My mom bought me this book after I saw the initial article for it last week or the week before... it's AWESOME! Filled with lots and LOTS of suggestions! I recommend this book to singles, dating women as well as married women! It has recommendations anyone can use! - 3/4/2009   10:54:30 AM
  • 5
    My husband and I order one entry and an extra plate and share it. If we want different orders, we only eat half and save the rest for the next day. Then split them so we can have both. We've been doing this for a long time. It's also a good way to save some cash. - 3/4/2009   10:53:11 AM

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