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Living Well : Nutrition

Tips for Choosing a Meal When Eating Out

Dining out is a great way to socialize with family and friends. Learn how to have fun and still stay on track


Eating out can be full of temptation. The best intentions can vanish at a delicious meal with friends, so it’s important to be aware of 2 pitfalls: how much you eat (something you can learn to control) and how you respond to the event.

It can be hard to hold back at restaurants. This can be a big challenge for people whose work or lifestyle includes eating out a lot.

What can you do when dessert comes with the meal? What if the kitchen pours gobs of dressing on your salad? How do you deal with a basket of hot bread that comes before the meal even begins? What do you do with huge portions? How can you turn down a dessert cart filled with sweet treats? Let’s look at some strategies that 
may help:


  • Engage your partner. A restaurant is a place where your partner can help, before you even walk in the door. Some people decide with their partners what to order in advance, before the aroma of different foods weakens their will. Some ask their partner to order for them or to keep the breadbasket in a safe place. Your partner can also help by not pushing you to have drinks or desserts
  • Choose well. Give some thought about where to eat. A place with a wide range of foods is a good choice. Try to avoid buffets


  • Read the menu with care. Some menus have sections of healthy choices; you may want to look for words like baked, braised, broiled, grilled, poached, roasted, and steamed. Try to avoid items that are fried, buttered, creamed, crispy, au gratin, and breaded. You can also use a food planner and tracker to look up information on the menu items
  • Order from the front of the menu. Try to choose a healthy appetizer or salad for your meal. It may be enough food to fill you up and still make you feel like you had a nice meal out
  • Order à la carte. Sometimes a full meal costs less than it would if you added up everything that comes with it. This can tempt you to order more food than you need—the “value” meals at fast-food restaurants are a classic example. Don’t let them trick you. It’s only a deal if you want the extra food; if you don’t, save money by ordering only what you want
  • Watch the salad dressing. Salad dressing is high in fat, so you may want to ask for a low-fat dressing or for the dressing “on the side.” This lets you choose how much you want—better yet, try to leave it off completely. You can also order salad dressing on the side, and just dip your fork into the dressing before putting salad on your fork. You may be surprised how much of this small bit of dressing you can taste
  • Have it your way. It’s OK to ask for one or 2 menu substitutions that make sense, such as ordering a baked potato or salad instead of fries. If you order a sandwich, you could choose one that has one or 2 vegetables on it
  • Watch for hidden calories. Many foods have hidden calories that can add up, such as rich sauces, oils, and breading. If you can’t guess what’s in a dish, you could ask your server


  • Watch the alcohol. Alcohol is loaded with empty calories. Plus, you may find yourself drinking more than you plan, just to be social. A drink can be tempting while you sit at the bar waiting for your table and can weaken your will when you order and eat. You could order low-calorie drinks like water or seltzer instead
  • Beware of the bread. Try to keep an eye out for that wonderful breadbasket that comes when you’re hungry and excited about eating out. Try to turn it down. If the server brings you one anyway, you can move it across the table and let it stay there. Some people, however, may benefit from the breadbasket. They eat one piece of bread (with no butter) to take the edge off their hunger, which can help them resist richer foods later in the meal. You could try to see if this works for you; but, beware of using it as an excuse to gorge on bread and then eat what you would have anyway. Bread is not all that bad; breads and cereals are an important part of your diet. But the breadbasket can tempt you to eat more bread than you need just because it’s there


  • You may split your meal. Sharing a meal with a friend can be a great idea, especially since there is often enough food for 2 people. This can be worth it even if the restaurant charges for the extra plate. If you have no one to share with, you can ask for a doggie bag in advance and put part of your meal in it when the food arrives. This keeps the food out of sight where it won’t tempt you
  • Try to eat the greens first. You may want to start with the foods that are low in calories, like salad. If you fill up with salad or vegetables, you can be less tempted to overeat


  • Be wise about dessert. Do you deserve dessert when you eat out? You don’t get special desserts often, so why not enjoy yourself? Try to ignore this temptation. You may want to adopt a strategy where you get dessert only under 2 conditions: if you are still hungry or if you have planned it in your day’s calories in line with your healthcare provider’s recommendations. You could order fresh fruit or sorbet; both taste good and have far fewer calories than the usual dessert choices. Or, you can order one dessert for a group to share


  • Watch your emotional response. If you end up eating more than you planned, don't think of it as a disaster. The calories in one meal eaten out never shattered any weight management program. A huge meal of 5000 calories would only make you gain 1½ pounds, but how you respond to yourself and those calories could lead to trouble if you overreact. Your attitudes, thoughts, and beliefs can be just as important as what you eat. One 200-calorie donut doesn’t have to mean a 3000-calorie day, but try to be prepared to make up for that donut by eating less, not more. Try not to use this as an excuse to overdo it. Try to keep your cool by seeing these events as a small part of a bigger picture and use them as a reminder to do better the next meal or the next day

You could use these techniques to control your eating in restaurants, as well as other tactics you discover. For example, you might drink extra water to fill up before the meal comes. Try carrying a list with you of the challenges you face and the techniques you can use when you eat out. When you eat out, review your list before even entering a restaurant. If you find more challenges, write them down and then list some ways to overcome these challenges that you can discuss with your healthcare provider. Have fun, but stay in control!

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Qsymia® should be used together with a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity for chronic weight management in adults with an initial body mass index (BMI) of:

  • 30 kg/m2 or greater (obese) or
  • 27 kg/m2 or greater (overweight) in the presence of at least one weight-related medical condition such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol

Limitations of Use:

  • It is not known if Qsymia changes your risk of heart problems or stroke or of death due to heart problems or stroke
  • It is not known if Qsymia is safe and effective when taken with other prescription, over-the-counter, or herbal weight loss products

It is not known if Qsymia is safe and effective in children under 18 years old


Do not take Qsymia if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or become pregnant during Qsymia treatment; have glaucoma; have thyroid problems (hyperthyroidism); are taking certain medicines called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) or have taken MAOIs in the past 14 days; are allergic to topiramate, sympathomimetic amines such as phentermine, or any of the ingredients in Qsymia. See the end of the Medication Guide for a complete list of ingredients in Qsymia.

Qsymia can cause serious side effects, including:

Birth defects (cleft lip/cleft palate). If you take Qsymia during pregnancy, your baby has a higher risk for birth defects called cleft lip and cleft palate. These defects can begin early in pregnancy, even before you know you are pregnant. Patients who are pregnant must not take Qsymia. Patients who can become pregnant should have a pregnancy test before taking Qsymia and every month while taking Qsymia and use effective birth control (contraception) consistently while taking Qsymia. Talk to your healthcare provider about how to prevent pregnancy. If you become pregnant while taking Qsymia, stop taking Qsymia immediately, and tell your healthcare provider right away. Healthcare providers and patients should report all cases of pregnancy to FDA MedWatch at 1-800-FDA-1088, and the Qsymia Pregnancy Surveillance Program at 1-888-998-4887.

Increases in heart rate. Qsymia can increase your heart rate at rest. Your healthcare provider should check your heart rate while you take Qsymia. Tell your healthcare provider if you experience, while at rest, a racing or pounding feeling in your chest lasting several minutes when taking Qsymia.

Suicidal thoughts or actions. Topiramate, an ingredient in Qsymia, may cause you to have suicidal thoughts or actions. Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these symptoms, especially if they are new, worse, or worry you: thoughts about suicide or dying; attempts to commit suicide; new or worse depression; new or worse anxiety; feeling agitated or restless; panic attacks; trouble sleeping (insomnia); new or worse irritability; acting aggressive, being angry, or violent; acting on dangerous impulses; an extreme increase in activity or talking (mania); other unusual changes in behavior or mood.

Serious eye problems, which include any sudden decrease in vision, with or without eye pain and redness or a blockage of fluid in the eye causing increased pressure in the eye (secondary angle closure glaucoma). These problems can lead to permanent vision loss if not treated. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have any new eye symptoms.

Common side effects of Qsymia include:

Numbness or tingling in the hands, arms, feet, or face (paraesthesia); dizziness; changes in the way foods taste or loss of taste (dysgeusia); trouble sleeping (insomnia); constipation; and dry mouth.

Possible side effects of Qsymia include:

Mood changes and trouble sleeping. Qsymia may cause depression or mood problems, and trouble sleeping. Tell your healthcare provider if symptoms occur..

Concentration, memory, and speech difficulties. Qsymia may affect how you think and cause confusion, problems with concentration, attention, memory or speech. Tell your healthcare provider if symptoms occur.

Increases of acid in bloodstream (metabolic acidosis). If left untreated, metabolic acidosis can cause brittle or soft bones (osteoporosis, osteomalacia, osteopenia), kidney stones, can slow the rate of growth in children, and may possibly harm your baby if you are pregnant. Metabolic acidosis can happen with or without symptoms. Sometimes people with metabolic acidosis will: feel tired, not feel hungry (loss of appetite), feel changes in heartbeat, or have trouble thinking clearly. Your healthcare provider should do a blood test to measure the level of acid in your blood before and during your treatment with Qsymia.

Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) in people with type 2 diabetes mellitus who also take medicines used to treat type 2 diabetes mellitus. Weight loss can cause low blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes mellitus who also take medicines used to treat type 2 diabetes mellitus (such as insulin or sulfonylureas). You should check your blood sugar before you start taking Qsymia and while you take Qsymia.

High blood pressure medicines. If you are taking medicines for your blood pressure, your doctor may need to adjust these medicines while taking Qsymia.

Central Nervous System (CNS) side effects. The use of prescription sleep aids, anxiety medicines, or drinking alcohol with Qsymia may cause an increase in CNS symptoms such as dizziness and light-headedness. Do not drink alcohol with Qsymia.

Possible seizures if you stop taking Qsymia too fast. Seizures may happen in people who may or may not have had seizures in the past if you stop Qsymia too fast. Your healthcare provider will tell you how to stop taking Qsymia slowly.

Kidney stones. Drink plenty of fluids when taking Qsymia to help decrease your chances of getting kidney stones. If you get severe side or back pain, and/or blood in your urine, call your healthcare provider.

Decreased sweating and increased body temperature (fever). People should be watched for signs of decreased sweating and fever, especially in hot temperatures. Some people may need to be hospitalized for this condition.

Tell your healthcare provider if you have any side effect that bothers you or does not go away. These are not all of the possible side effects of Qsymia. For more information, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist.

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to VIVUS LLC at 1-888-998-4887 or FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 or www.fda.gov/medwatch.

Please read the Qsymia Medication Guide and Full Prescribing Information.

The Q and Me Patient Resources and Education site is based on the LEARN® Program provided under copyright license (September 15, 2010). All rights reserved.


Do not take Qsymia if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or become pregnant during Qsymia treatment; have glaucoma; have thyroid problems (hyperthyroidism); are taking certain medicines called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) or have taken MAOIs in the past 14 days; are allergic to topiramate, sympathomimetic amines such as phentermine, or any of the ingredients in Qsymia. See the end of the Medication Guide for a complete list of ingredients in Qsymia.