Fat & Weight Loss , Nutrition, food, & eating

How to Track Your Calories: Restaurant Edition

Author: Kevin Driscoll
February 26, 2024

Do you enjoy going out to eat for date night, with friends, or just to take a break from cooking for the evening?



Me too.


But it can be overwhelming to eat out if you are focused on tracking your calories to reach your weight loss goals.


All these questions pop up:


“What do I even order?”


“How many calories does this have?”


“Should I bring my food scale?”


Fortunately, if you are armed with the right strategies, you can still enjoy your date nights and dinner celebrations.


In this blog, I will teach you different strategies I use with my 1:1 Online Fat Loss clients that has shown them amazing success to go out to eat and still lose fat.



These stragegies are here to help you stay on track with their calories while going out to eat.


1. Look at the Menu Ahead of Time

In 2024, tracking your calories at restaurants has become much easier.


Many restaurants share nutrition information on their menu, which is amazing for someone tracking their calories.



This is typically the case a chain restaurant vs. your local family-owned Italian restaurant, but don’t worry. I will help you manage your calories at those types of restaurants too.


Whether it's on their website, in MyFitnessPal, or just doing a quick Google search, your smartphone will come in handy here.


I suggest looking at their menu ahead of time so you can plan your day.


If you know you want something higher in calories, try to look first thing in the morning so you can work backward for the rest of the day.


Let’s say you have 1,800 calories for the day, but the meal at the restaurant you want has 950 calories. Pre-plug that into your food journal, and work backward for the remainder with the 1,050 calories you have left so you can stay on track!


Or if it ends up being last minute, look at the nutrition information and see what options you can work into your calories to remain on track for the day.


It is a nice time to have the internet readily available for us on our smartphones to help make tracking your calories at a restaurant much easier when losing weight.


2. Follow the One Plate Rule

(and follow this guideline)


Now, for the restaurants that do not provide nutritional information on their menu.

Since you don’t know exactly how many calories your going to eat, it’s ok. Don’t panic; everything will be alright. Daddy Kev is here to help you!


Instead, I want you to follow this one-plate rule.


Simply put, you get one plate.


Not a lunch tray.


A standard, regular-sized plate.


This goes for the entire meal. Between apps, your entree, and dessert, only eat what would be able to fit on one plate.


As I said, we won’t know precisely how many calories you will eat, but it is a way to keep calories in proportion and not overdo it.


I use this rule a bunch with my one-on-one online fat loss clients to help them manage their overall calorie intake, and it allows them to stay on track without feeling like they are going overboard.


Remember, even though we don’t know the total amount of calories you eat, one meal will also not make or break your progress. So, as long as you stay consistent and get right back on track afterward with your tracking, you will be fine!


Now, let’s add to this.


Here is a guideline that helps make this one-plate rule a step further so you feel more confident that your calorie consumption is in check.


Take your one plate and you are going to divide it into three sections.


  1. 25%-33% of your plate should be filled with a protein option. Chicken, steak, fish, tofu, whatever protein option you want.’


  1. 33%-50% of your plate will be your vegetable option. Broccoli, asparagus, carrots, mixed veggies, whatever veggie option you want.


  1. Lastly, fill whatever space remains on that plate with carbs—rice, potatoes, bread, pasta, or whatever carb option you want.


Follow this template if you want to manage your calories at a restaurant where you know you can’t be as precise. This guideline has worked wonders for my online clients, not only at restaurants but also at buffets and social events!


3. Use Your Experience 

When you are unsure how many calories your meal may be at a restaurant, use your experience from calorie tracking to make an educated guess of how many calories each food is.



If you have been tracking for some time, you will have developed some knowledge about portion sizes. Apply this to these situations where you need to do your best to guesstimate.


When you order that baked chicken with broccoli and mashed potatoes, since you have been tracking your calories prior for the last bit of time, put those skills to use.


The chicken looks roughly like 5 oz, and that looks like 2 cups of broccoli, and the mashed potatoes look about 100 grams.


Will it be exact? No.


But it’s better to track something to give you a solid rough idea, vs. not paying attention to it at all, saying “fuck it,” and crushing the table’s worth of dinner rolls, a couple of cocktails, and an entire sundae.


A quick additional tip to this:


One thing I recommend doing is overestimating your calories to be on the higher end.This way you:


  1. Set yourself up to stay within your calorie deficit
  2. Are covered if you miscalculated your portions and are missing/not seeing ingredients. 

When it comes to eating out, there are usually oils and butter used in dishes, which

quickly add up calories. I will add anywhere from 200 to 300 extra calories when tracking my calories at restaurants to account for that.


4. Pick One Rule

Now my last tip is not necessarily a tip to help with tracking calories at a restaurant but to help manage your overall calorie intake.


This is the Pick 1 Rule.


What this rule requires is that you get to pick 1 out of these 3 things:


  1. Appetizer
  2. Cocktail/Beer/Wine
  3. Dessert

Pick 1 out of the 3 with your dinner meal, not 2 or all 3, just 1.


This will ensure you manage your overall calories and keep you from going overboard while eating out at a restaurant.


Those 3 things altogether can add up to almost an entire day’s worth of calories, picking one will allow some flexibility while losing weight and going out to eat.


So, which one are you picking?



Last thing!

Are you perfect with your habits when losing weight?




Do you have to be perfect with your food choices?




So, do you have to be perfect with tracking your calories at a restaurant? 


Absolutely not.




Because you just have to be consistent!


Just like how no one got shredded from eating one salad, no one is going to get fat from eating a whole pizza one night.


This blog is to help you create a plan and provide tips so you can better manage your calories to help you lose weight.


But when it comes down to it, you will not be perfect with tracking your calories at a restaurant and that is ok!


Just remember, as long as you are consistent (not perfect), you will make progress!



- Kevin

As I Am


PS: And if you are someone who needs a more guidance, support, and accountablilty with weight loss, click HERE to schedule a time for us to chat!

About Author
Kevin Driscoll

Hey there! I'm an online personal trainer and nutrition coach, and I've helped hundreds of people achieve their weight loss and fitness goals without restricting them from their favorite foods or spending overtime in the gym. Let's work together!



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