Eating at a restaurant during these 20 weeks is inevitable, and for the rest of your life, it's going to happen. While it can be diet suicide, there are a few ways to keep yourself in check.
Though I'm hitting hard on lowering calories and eliminating the crap, it's OK to have a cheat night, or indulge a bit... you just have to adjust the rest of your day, and maybe even week, accordingly!
This is what I assume of all restaurants:
1. They give you much more food than a portion size
2. They want it to taste good, no matter how many calories it takes
3. If their portions are "small," they use fillers to make up for it.
(By fillers, I mean bread, chips, peanuts, rolls, etc., which you should either say no to, or only eat 1, and make sure you count those calories along with your meal. When they ask if you want a refil, say no. If it's there, you're more likely to eat it)
Now I know there are some restaurants and fat food places that do cater to a low-calorie diet, but they're few and far between. I rarely go out to eat (maybe once a month?) because I love to cook, I can cook better food than many of the restaurants I go to, and I don't like to spend so much money! But every now and then, I do like to go out and have someone serve me, do the dishes, and hang out with JJ or friends and family.
I tend to have ordering anxiety, so I always look up the restaurant online, check over the menu, and go with my mind set on what I'm going to get. Again, if you go with a plan, you're less likely to say, "Oh screw it, give me the bacon cheese burger or fettucini al fredo!"
The calorie content to almost any dish at any given restaurant is at your finger tips, just do your research! Here's a comprehensive tool for fast food and some chain restaurants.
If the restaurant you're going to doesn't have nutritional information, at least get online and look at their menu. Some key words to look for when you're ordering and want to stay low-cal are: steamed, baked, broiled, grilled, and roasted.
While you may think something like pesto is healthy because it's green, it's actually full of fat and calories. Yes, EVOO is good for you, but pesto has a ton of it in there, as well as parmesan and pine nuts, which can pack on the calories and fat. Try a marinara instead! If you order a steak, get the smaller size, like the 6 oz. rather than the 8 oz. Go for a tenderloin, a cut of meat where there is less fat.
While you may think salads are best, when they're loaded with cheese, nuts, bacon, egg and dressing, they're not healthy! Not to mention the calorie packed salad dressings served along side!
I just want to reiterate, it's ok to have a cheat night, but don't completely blow your calorie budget!!! Let me give you a little example - My brother in law has this idea that he wants to eat a 10,000 calorie meal, and then hibernate (he's a little strange...) anyway, my sister was looking at Outback, and EASILY put together a 10,000 calorie meal with plain old menu items. Sure, the portion size was large, but we've already talked about how our portions are most likely distorted.
So here's the 10,000 calorie plan - Cheese Fries, Bloomin' Onion, Steak, Chocolate Desert, Margarita and Long Island Iced Tea. Sure, he'd have to eat the whole onion and all the fries, but wow! 10,000 calories is 3 pounds!!! And that's just 'normal' Outback food!
One other thing you should look for, and PF Changs is guilty of this, is when they publish their nutritional info, they slip in that each dish is really 2 or 4 portions, so your noodle dish at 500 calories isn't terrible, but it serves 2, so if you eat the whole plate, you're eating 1,000 calories! It's a scary world out there at restaurants.... but you won't break the calorie bank if you plan ahead, read, and make smart choices!