Dieting diners may want to eat out, but eat less.

Fellow foodies, I’d like to take a moment to dish about what’s on our dishes. Believing that everyone in this industry has a passion for food, I think many of us share an occupational hazard—waist creep.

That said, I’m happy to report the scale is flashing 10 pounds lighter than six months ago. More significantly, I’m even happier to report that I’ve accomplished this small feat while dining out no less than four nights every week.

Slimming the waistline without limiting my eating-out experiences effectively lays waste to all those theories that one must live on minimalist meals at home in order to diet successfully. There is absolutely no reason that taking control of the number on those nasty scales means you have to scale back on fine foods.

Which brings me to the point of this discussion: How might restaurants support diners who want to exercise portion control?

As we identified trends for 7 Innovations of Highly Imaginative Restaurants (page 34), I found myself intrigued by emergent practices—but also wishing the ubiquitous conversations throughout our industry surrounding healthful eating might manifest into practices that support diners who want to eat out, but also eat less.

Nantucket Grill and Bar—which has four locations in North Carolina—offers half and full portions of select entrees as well as for its mile-high, gourmet cakes. (Okay, so even a half portion of gourmet cake is not on the table for serious dieters—but the concept of half-size portions is noteworthy.) Also notable: Nantucket Grill’s half-portion selections are more than half the price of full-size portions—but that doesn’t detract from their appeal in the least.

For me, the most difficult part of eating less in restaurants has been dealing with the guilt complex that invariably occurs when my husband and I ask to split an entrée or I leave half the meal uneaten, even though I assure the server the food was excellent.

Restaurants that charge a splitting fee make it so much easier for diners like me. And if they would take it a step further and remind us what the gratuity would be had we both ordered an entrée that would be even nicer. (Generally speaking, we just double the tip—but not every diner has the beneficial perspective of having waitressed in college.)

Of course, restaurants that offer a discreet take-home package for uneaten portions also rate high on my list.

Here’s to eating hearty—but not hefty!

Expert Takes, Feature