Healthy Restaurant Dining for Dummies

Restaurant dining has become the mainstay for entertainment and socialization for many people. While it’s often more fun to eat food that you didn’t have to prepare yourself, the extra pounds that ensue are not so much fun to deal with. Fortunately, it is possible to enjoy an occasional restaurant night out even when watching your figure.

1. Choose wisely:  Plan which restaurant you are going to according to your dietary restrictions. Certain restaurants will have a better variety of healthier choices than others. Asian restaurants such as Thai and Japanese offer flavorful selections prepared with fresh vegetables, lean meats, and savory broths. Most steak houses also offer lovely steamed vegetables, and lean cuts of beef or grilled shellfish.

2. Do your research:  Look up the menu online or ask the restaurant to fax it to you. Some websites will have the calories listed which make it easier to make the best choices, but knowing the basics will allow you to make great choices all by yourself. Go for a high vegetable to meat ratio, look for meats that are grilled or broiled as opposed to fried, and choose tomato or clear based sauces instead of creamy ones. The less cheese the better.

3. Pick your poison:  Let’s face it; most of us enjoy the appetizers and desserts more than the actual entree. Unfortunately, this is where the majority of empty calories are consumed. Instead of indulging in both an appetizer and dessert, get a yummy salad or clear soup instead of the appetizer, and share your dessert. If you must indulge in the fried appetizer, share it with the other people at the table, and skip dessert.

4. Portion control:  Most entree portions are twice the size necessary to satisfy our hunger, but we tend to eat the whole thing for fear of waste, or just because its there. The next time you go out, ask for a doggie bag right away, and put half of your meal away before you start eating. You’ll consume half the calories and be just as satisfied, plus you’ll have a yummy lunch for the next day. To save both money and calories, share one entrée among two people.

5. Beware of beverages:  The object of the game is to eat your calories, not drink them. Water and unsweetened iced tea with lemon are the best choices, diet sodas come in at a distant third. Remember that alcoholic beverages can actually stimulate your appetite, plus those sugary mixers add up to 300 calories, so skip the pre dinner cocktails. If you are going to have alcohol, one glass of wine with your entrée is the best way to go.

6. Dressing on the side:  Salad dressing is for added flavor and moisture, so treat it as such. By dipping your fork into your side of dressing and then picking up your salad, you’ll get a little in each bite instead of a bunch of high calorie, soggy lettuce.

7. Pass on the bread:  Save your calories for the main event. If you can eat just one piece and stop, then do that. If you tend to make a meal out of the bread basket, consider saying “no thanks” when your server offers bread for your table.

8. Substitutions, please:  Whenever possible, ask for an extra side of vegetables instead of the standard rice or mashed potatoes. You’ll be just as full with fewer calories, lower blood sugar, and greater health benefits.

9.  98% oil free:  Most restaurants will prepare your food with little to no oil if requested. Just 1 tablespoon of oil, including olive oil, comes with 130 extra calories. High quality food can stand on its own and does not need a lot of extra oils and butters to taste good.

10. Have fun:  Dining out is not just about the food, it’s also about the experience and the company you’re with. Take it all in. Admire the décor, enjoy the service, and engage in interesting conversations with your dining partners. You’ll have a great time while living a healthier lifestyle!

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