Eating out and losing weight? It can be done, a study finds


Eating out can be a minefield for dieters -- even the most healthful-looking salad can contain more than 1,000 calories. But a study that used education and a mindful approach to eating proved successful in getting participants to lose weight while dining out.

The study, released Tuesday in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, included 35 healthy women age 40 to 59 who ate out often -- on average 5.6 times a week. Some were assigned to attend six weekly sessions that focused on education and mindful eating meditations designed to help people consume less fat and fewer calories while eating out and prevent weight gain. The others were part of a control group that did not do the intervention.

The weekly sessions featured goal-setting skills plus information on portion sizes and strategies to prevent gaining weight when eating out in various types of restaurants. Mindful eating meditations highlighted becoming more aware of hunger and of feeling full.


Those in the intervention group ate fewer calories on average, consumed less fat compared with the control group, and felt more capable about accomplishing their diet-related goals. They also did better than maintain their weight -- they actually lost some, about 3.7 pounds on average. Overall daily calorie intake decreased by an average 297 calories. But only 124 calories of that came from eating out, so some cutbacks were made at home as well.

When eating at restaurants, large portions, fattening sauces and rich ingredients can rack up the fat and calories, and not every restaurant offers nutritional information that makes navigating menus easier. Most chefs are able to make food more wholesome, but not everyone is inclined to do so.

“Based on what we learned from this study, for those individuals who eat out frequently, developing the skills needed to eat out without gaining weight from the excess calories typically consumed at restaurants may be essential to long-term health,” lead author Gayle Timmerman of the University of Texas said in a news release.