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How to Easily Count Calories When Eating Out

Are you trying to stay on top of your health and fitness goals?

Perhaps you want to bulk up, lose weight or simply be more aware of what you're eating each day. One way to do that is to keep a food diary.

Many people note their calorie intake or keep a record of the macros (protein, carbs and fats) in each meal because monitoring food intake can help them stay on track.

It's easy to count calories and record macros when you're eating at home. There, you've either prepared the food yourself, or you can read the nutrition information on the packet. So, you know exactly what you're eating and how much.

Tracking calories is much harder to do when you're eating at restaurants.

You don't know what's in the dish or how much you're consuming. You probably can't quiz the chef, so either you feel restricted to the plainest salad on the menu, or you throw caution to the wind and regret it later.

Fortunately, there are several ways to count calories when you're out. But, no matter what method you use for counting calories in restaurants, it's never going to be 100% accurate. That's okayit doesn't need to be!

Here's how to count calories when you eat out.

1. Download a food tracking app

Using a food tracking app like Meals.Chat is absolutely the easiest way to track calories, protein, fat and carbs. All you have to do is take a pic of your food!

Take the stress out of eating restaurant foods

Meals.Chat is super fast and easy to use; it takes literally five seconds to get the calorie content from a meal photo. That's a big deal when you're faced with a restaurant meal and wondering how on earth to estimate the numbers for your food diary.

Of course, Meals.Chat gives more than calorie information. It analyzes the meal ingredients and calculates the carbs, protein and fats, too. So it works for your needs, whether you're counting calories or macros.

Counting calories when eating out

It even does drinks! So, yes, you can have that extra glass of wine if you know the extra calories won't tip you over your limit.

Estimating restaurant drink calories

You might be considering several meals on the menu. In that case, you'll want to know how many calories each one has before you order. Not a problem. Tell Meals.Chat what each meal is, and the app can estimate how many calories it has based on its knowledge of similar meals.

Estimating chicken salad calories when eating out

Sometimes you're just enjoying the moment and don't want to think about calorie counts. But back home you decide to add the meal to your food diary anyway. No problem. just type the meal's name, for example "burger and fries" and let Meals.Chat do the rest.

The app will estimate calories and macros based on the way this meal is usually cooked.

It's lightning fast and gives you enough nutritional information to make an informed decision.

2. Use calorie counts on menus

Some restaurants and cafes note the calorie count next to each item on the menu.

That makes calorie counting a breeze. Simply take that number and log it in your food diary.

Pros: it's quick and simple

Cons: servers don't weigh each portion or measure the amount of sauce, so this method still isn't entirely accurate. It's helpful for counting calories, but you probably won't find the macros listed on the menu. Also, very few restaurants list the calorie count in the first place.

Reading calorie count on restaurant menu

3. Research common recipes

Most restaurants have their menus online. So, look up the menu before you go and research recipes for each meal you like the look of. Research the average calories for the main ingredients and then add them together to get the total calorie counts.

If you don't have time to do all that, note the meal you ate and do the research when you get home.

You could even ask the server how the food is prepared. Find out what oil it's cooked with or what's in the dressing. The little things you can't see can add up big time when you're counting calories.

Pros: You can calculate the weight of each ingredient per portion, and this method can be pretty accurate.

Cons: This method takes a LOT of time. And you run the risk of all this research sucking the joy out of eating out. You might even decide you'd rather stay at home. 🙄

Researching restaurant meal recipes

4. Learn to estimate portion sizes

Another calorie intake method involves learning how many calories are in the typical foods you eat and training yourself to estimate how much of it is in restaurant portions. Either memorize the amounts or keep a list of them handy.

For example, one cup of cooked skinless chicken has around 231 calories. Leaving the skin on increases the calories to 276. Work out the size of a one-cup portion relative to your palm or fist size. Then, you can use that to estimate how much chicken is in a restaurant serving.

100g of cooked wheat pasta contains between 25-40g of carbs (although that depends on the pasta shape and on how it's cooked. Learn to judge what 100g of cooked pasta looks like, then use that to estimate how much is in your Italian takeout.

According to this chart, a ribeye steak could have approximately 170 calories, 24g of protein, and 8g of fat. But a different cut of beef would yield different amounts (hence the need for a chart).

Pros: Once you master comparing amounts to your fist or palm, you can estimate calories, protein etc. in a meal without needing any further research.

Cons: It's a lot to remember and doesn't take sauces and meals with many ingredients into account.

Estimate portion sizes of restaurant meals

Final thoughts

Whether you're sitting down to a fine-dining restaurant meal or grabbing some fast food, eating out is meant to be fun. You sure don't want to be calculating ingredients or worrying about the weight of each item.

When counting calories in restaurant foods, you need a quick estimate and to move on. Meals.Chat is pretty much perfect for that.

Download Meals.Chat and bring back the fun in eating out.


How do restaurants calculate calories in food?

The FDA says that food vendors "must have a reasonable basis for the nutrient information for standard menu items." This means they can use nutrient databases, laboratory analysis, nutrition facts labels, cookbooks, or other reasonable means (e.g., calculations).

Are restaurant calories accurate?

The calorie counts you see on restaurant menus are generally pretty accurate since the FDA states that food vendors must have a reasonable means for calculating this information. However, it is not fully accurate since restaurants don't weigh out each individual ingredient when preparing a meal.

How do you keep track of calories when eating out?

The easiest way to track calories when eating out is to use an app like Meals.Chat. You just take a pic of your food and it will figure out the ingredients, calories and macros. Or if you're deciding what to have, you can write something like "lasagne and salad" and the app will estimate the nutrients.

How do I track macros when eating out?

The easiest way to track macros when eating out is to use a food tracking app like Meals.Chat. You just take a photo of your meal and it estimates macros and calories. If you're deciding between several options on the menu, just type in each one and it will estimate nutrient values.

Do restaurant menus show calories?

In the US, chain restaurants with at least 20 locations are legally required to show the calorie count on their menus. In the UK, restaurants, cafes and takeaways with more than 250 employees must display the calorie information of non-prepacked food and drink items.

How do I count calories at a buffet?

The simplest way to count calories at a buffet is to use a calorie tracking app like Meals.Chat and just take a photo of each plate you have. In a couple of seconds the app will figure out the ingredients, calories and macros so you can actually enjoy your meal out rather than worrying about logging each item.

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