How To Track Calories at Restaurants

how to track calories at restaurants

Today you and I are going to cover every dieters dilemma, how to track calories at restaurants?

You are tracking your calories because some crazy coach is making you track your calories and learn about the food you are eating ( that crazy coach might be me!).

It is a Friday and you have tracked your calories the entire day. All of a sudden your spouse asks you if you want to go out to dinner tonight to de stress from a long work week.

Of course you say yes because who wouldn’t.

Then it hits you, how are you going to track your calories when you go to this restaurant?

You won’t have your food scale (at least I hope not) so how can you be sure you are tracking calories accurately and still moving closer to your goals?

Are you going to ruin all of your progress?

No need to fret. I got your back.

In this article I will cover multiple different ways on how to track calories at restaurants.

There is going to be a few different strategies therefore just be sure to understand each one fully to have multiple options at your disposal.

Ready? Let’s do this.

How To Track Calories At Restaurants


Before we dive into any tips or strategies on how to track calories at restaurants I need you to remember this.

You do not have to be perfect.

I love the fact you are reading this article right now to try and make sure you see the most progress possible on your fitness goals by learning how to track calories at restaurants.

Yet please remember this, you do not have to be perfect. This article is not going to be some perfect system of add this, subtract that, then whip out your food scale and measure your pizza.

It is going to be impossible to truly know calorie for calorie how many you are eating out at a restaurant, over a friends house, or any time where you can’t be in full control of what you are eating.

The best part is, that is okay, because it nor you has to be perfect. You just have to be consistent.

That is exactly what this article is going to do. I am going to give you multiple strategies you can take with you to help you get as close as you possibly can and allow you to remain consistent with your diet.

The worst thing you can do in this situation is say to yourself “Well, I can’t perfectly count my calories because I don’t have my food scale and I don’t know the calorie count, so to hell with it the binge is on!!”.

That my friend is going to do you nor your fitness goals any good.

This is a game of being consistent rather than being perfect. As long as you remain consistent, you will achieve all of your goals.

Are we understanding each other? *Nods head*. Perfect, now, let’s get into the strategies for how to track calories at a restaurant.

5 Strategies For How To Track Calories At Restaurants

#1 Looking Up Calories Before Hand

When it comes to tracking calories at restaurants, the internet can be a beautiful place.

Luckily we live in an era where we have smartphones that hold the same power Ronald Regan used to run the free world.

Coupled with the fact that many restaurants are now working to be cognizant of being transparent about what is in their food, this makes for a great combination for you the dieter.

A ton of restaurants these days have their nutrition information somewhere on their website.

how to track calories at restaurants  5 guys

Take 5 Guys here above for example.

They even go more in depth to offer the macros as well with protein, carbs, and fats.

how to track calories at restaurants maggianos

Or take Maggianos here above.

Again, they also go the next step to offer macro guidelines as well.

Point being most places offer a full size calorie breakdown for their entire menu.

Therefore before you head out to eat you can simply take 5-10 minutes to look up what dish you may want to enjoy along with the calories that is has with it leading you to make an appropriate choice.

Yet I can hear it now. “Wow I have to pull out my phone, scroll through the menu, and find out how many calories everything is!?”.

Well, you were going to look at the menu anywhere weren’t you? Why not take the extra 35 seconds to scroll your eyes a bit more to see the calorie and protein guidelines for the dishes as well.

Whew, now that I got that off my back 😉 .

I will say that most restaurants who do this are chain restaurants or fast food places.

Therefore it may not work for everyone at every time, yet no need to fear, because Eric is always here.

As far as strategies for how to track calories at restaurants, this absolutely gets my top choice.

There are others though if this cannot work for you. Let’s dive into those now.

#2 One Plate Rule

When it comes to fat loss especially, how much you eat is more important than what you eat.

What I mean by this is it is way less about specifically what you are eating because as long as you are in a calorie deficit you will lose body fat.

This works out well for you when you are eating out at restaurants.

I have something I have my online coaching clients do all the time and that is utilize the one plate rule.

The one plate rule is simply this:

  • no matter what you eat during that meal, it has to fit on one plate.

This includes appetizers, entrees, and desserts. All of it. If you cannot fit it on plate together as a whole, then you need to scale back your portion size.

What this does is without tracking calories meticulously, it allows you to keep your calories in check.

If you stick to your food being able to fit on one plate you can inherently only fit so many calories on that one plate.

Obviously with the premise being that you stick to a regular size plate as well as you don’t stack em high like pancakes.

how to track calories at restaurants

You will say Eric, but I don’t know exactly how many calories to put into my fitness pal app!

I know Sally, I know. I also know that one night of you eating out is not going to make or break your progress. This is because this game is all about consistency not perfection, remember?

Therefore if you can stick to your one plate rule for the night, keep your calories in check, and hold yourself accountable to simply a different kind of nutrition guideline, you will win.

Now you may say “well okay Eric, but what if the plate is filled with pasta and pizza!?”.

I’d first say sounds amazing. I would then say you can go a bit more in depth with the one plate rule and make it so you can upgrade it a tad.

Let’s now look at how to do that.

#3 What Makes Up The One Plate

When it comes to how to track calories at restaurants if you stick to the one plate rule mentioned above you are going to win, I promise.

Yet if you want to take it up a notch, here is how you can do that.

You know everything has to fit on one plate but you want to be mindful of what is on that plate, right?

Of course you do, you hard working dieter you.

Here is how you can do that.

That one plate has to composed of

  • 1 palm size portion of protein (1/4 of the plate)
  • 2 fist fuls of vegetables (1/2 of the plate)
  • 1 cupped handful of carbs (1/4 of the plate)

Now you have narrowed down and gotten even more specific with keeping your calories in check when you may not be able to count them perfectly.

Friendly reminder: this strategy does not ave to be used for just when you are eating at a restaurant. This can be used while at your friends house for the football game or your grandmas house for Sunday night dinner.

The beauty of this strategy is it is yet another way to keep your calories in check without having to meticulously count calories.

Let’s be honest, god willing you are always going to have your hand to portion out your proteins, carbs, and vegetables.

As well as you will always have your eyeball to measure out portions on the plate.

Protein is normally lower to moderate calories and incredibly filling.

Vegetables are normally low calories and incredibly filling as well.

Then you still leave room for your beloved carbs.

This strategy right here is again something I do a ton with my online coaching clients .

Also, it is apart of my YouTube video on how to lose fat without counting calories. You can watch that HERE if you want.

#4 Use Your Knowledge

One of the beautiful things about tracking calories is you learn so much from it.

You learn that 100g of cooked rice has about 130 calories. You also know roughly how much 100g of cooked rice looks like to the eye.

This is one of the main reasons I have my clients count calories is because of the information you can learn from it.

When you run into situations like eating out where you cannot track your calories to the T, your previous experience will come into play.

You will be able to order a dish, scan it, and get a rough estimate for how many calories each portion of the meal is.

Let’s say you order a steak with rice and broccoli.

From weighing your food for the past 3 months (again, because that crazy coach told you to!) you will know about how much 100g of cooked rice looks like.

You know will how much 7oz of steak looks like, as well as the fattier steaks vs the leaner steaks when it comes to their calorie counts.

What can you go with tis information? Guesstimate.

You can go into your my fitness pal app and record 100g of cooked rice and 7oz of a sirloin steak for your calorie count.

I know I know, you want to be spot on accurate.

Again, I love the fact you want to work so hard, but you have to realize something is better than nothing.

If you guesstimate the meal to be about 700 calories, and it was really 800, guess what?

That is pretty damn close. It is also a hell of a lot better than you saying to hell with it all together and ordering nachos as the appetizer, tacos as the entree, and washing it down with 4 beers.

Common sense people. When it comes to how to track calories at restaurants, let’s continue to use it.

#5 Over Estimate

My last strategy I have for you when it comes to how to track calories at restaurants is to simply over estimate the calories you are eating, especially if you are on a calorie deficit.

Let’s take the example above. Say you order steak, rice, and broccoli for your meal.

From your previous calorie counting knowledge it looks like roughly 100g of cooked rice and 7oz of steak.

What can you do? Simply ad 50-100 extra calories for each one of them.

Instead of recording 100g of rice, record say 140 or 150g.

Rather than inputting 7oz of steak, input 8 or 9oz.

This will automatically add a bit to the total.

If you overestimate one of 3 things will happen.

  1. You over estimate and stay under your calorie deficit.
  2. You over estimate and it was really more than you thought so you are spot on.
  3. You over estimate and it was actually a tad bit more than what you even over estimated. You are still closer than last time though.

Again, this is all based around getting as close as you can and being as consistent as you can, not worrying about perfection.

How To Track Calories At A Restaurant: Pro Tip

I am adding this little tidbit in here for you because I love and care about you so listen up.

One tip I always tell my online coaching clients is no matter where you go or what you eat, account for 1-2 tbsp of olive oil in your calories for the day.

Most restaurants use oil when they cook, and they use a lot of it.

Why you ask? Because it makes it taste good. Their number one job is to have the food taste as good as humanly possibly so you love it and come back.

Therefore if they dash a little more olive oil than what the recipe calls for, yet you love the way it taste, no harm no foul.

Well, no harm no foul for them, not for your calorie intake.

1 tbsp of olive oil is 14g of fat and 120 calories. You can see how quickly that could add up or throw you over your calories.

If you add it in off the bat you will be saving yourself some frustration down the road.

How To Track Calories At Restaurants : Conclusion

Well, there you have it.

My top 5 ways on how to track calories at restaurants.

If there is one thing I hope you take away from this is of course the tips and tricks, but also the general theme of you do not have to be perfect.

The quicker you accept you will not be perfect, but you can do the best you can, the quicker you will see results.

Any questions or concerns feel free to drop them below.

If this article helped you, please feel free to share it with someone who you think would benefit from it as well.

By the way, I did an entire YouTube video on this topic as well.

You can watch that here below.

Until next time,