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Eating at restaurants is a topic near and dear to my heart: in a normal week, I eat 12 meals per week out of the house due to traveling Monday through Thursday for work … and that’s without any social outings or date nights on the weekends (note: this post was written in 2013, before I left my job to follow my dreams!).  I have several strategies to help you eat healthily while traveling, but today, I want to share one of my most simple and effective tricks with you.

Before the tip, a quick word on how different restaurants can be from your kitchen, nutritionally speaking.  Aside from using extra fat, sugar, and salt to make food taste more appealing, restaurants also increase portion sizes so you end up eating more than you would at home.  Some articles cite that restaurant portions contain up to 50% more calories, fat, and sodium than an equivalent home-cooked meal.  Another study showed that teenagers ate, on average, 309 more calories during days that they ate at fast-food restaurants (and 267 more calories during days that they ate at full-service restaurants).  Plus, when you’re at home, you likely don’t have the bread basket, the appetizer course, the dessert menu, and the full bar to steer you away from healthy eating.

One simple tip I use to help me stay healthy even when dining out is what I call the “BDD rule.”

The BDD Rule

On normal dinners out, I allow myself to choose one option between Bread, Drink (alcoholic or sweetened), and Dessert.  On special occasions, I choose two.  And on those very special, once-in-a-lifetime events (like my honeymoon, a restaurant I’ve been dying to try, or maybe my sister-in-law’s wedding tonight!), I choose all three.  Framing it so that I get to choose one (or two, or three) of the options (rather than I have to limit myself) makes me feel more free and in control of my choices, and doesn’t seem so oppressive.  Most of the time, the bread basket just doesn’t look that great to me, and it’s not hard to pass up, but if I didn’t have the BDD rule in mind, I might mindlessly chomp on a few pieces of bread to pass the time until my meal came.  Using the BDD rule is one of the many tricks I use to help keep my restaurant meals from piling on the unnecessary calories and ensure that I leave feeling energized and satisfied, rather than weighed down and regretful.

So tell me in the comments… do you usually choose between bread, drinks, and dessert?  Would you like to hear more about how to eat healthily in restaurants?



  1. Emily on May 12, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    I really like this idea – I’m with you, the bread basket isn’t usually that irresistible, but dessert usually is. But, if I’m not paying attention, I’ll mindlessly eat the bread, even if it’s really not what I’m hungry for. I really like the positive spin! Please do share more about eating healthily in restaurants – since you do it so often, I’m sure you have lots of good tips!

  2. […] may have read in this weekend’s post on the “BDD Rule” that one of my simple tricks for eating healthily at restaurants is to (usually) avoid the bread […]

  3. Tarra Thomas on May 15, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    Great tip Megan. Eating out is where I think I struggle the most, especially because I love discovering new restaurants! I would love more tips on this topic.

    • Megan Lyons on May 15, 2013 at 8:58 pm

      You can still enjoy new restaurants, and indulge in the things that look great or come highly recommended, as long as you are aware of your portion sizes and make conscious choices (like using the BDD rule)! Stay tuned for more tips 🙂

  4. […] insulin spikes and keep me satisfied. (And don’t worry, I didn’t forget about the BDD Rule, and I still think that desserts at restaurants should be saved for a treat, as they’re just […]

  5. I’m not a drinker anymore so that’s an easy one. But I would be so happy to go out and just eat bread and dessert and skip the main course-LOL! Those are my weaknesses. If I had to pick one I guess I am going with bread-but only if it’s nice and warm.
    Deborah Brooks @ Confessions of a Mother Runner recently posted…Friday Five- 5 Fitness Goals for right nowMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on April 26, 2014 at 2:41 pm

      I think we would make good dining out partners, Deborah – I’ll have a glass of wine, you have the bread, and we’ll split dessert :).

  6. Mai Lyn Ngo on May 26, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    Great way of looking at it. Im definitely going to use this rule.

  7. […] you go, making it easier to eat what you are served in moderation.  3. Consider applying the BDD Rule (the Bread, Drink, Dessert Rule).  Megan Lyons makes this suggestion and it’s excellent […]

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