Eat this, not that

Sep 22, 2010 at 11:35 a.m. ET

If you're cutting calories to lose weight, restaurant meals can undo your best intentions. Giant portion sizes, hidden calories, and rich sauces make it easy to eat an entire day's worth of calories in a single meal without realizing it.

Woman sharing meal

Healthy eating tips

In general, steer clear of menu items described as "crispy," "batter dipped," "deep fried," or otherwise coated, dipped, and cooked in fat. For getting what you want in sit down restaurants, try the following chef recommended tips.

  • Become a regular and get to know the wait staff, and they're more likely to direct you to what's freshest and best.
  • Ask what the chef can grill or poach; order a simply grilled or poached piece of fish or chicken with fresh herbs.
  • Choose a dish that's naturally low fat to start; don't take a fried item and try to make it healthier.
  • Ask for the details of the sauce ingredients.
  • Beware of the calories in beverages, which add up quickly.
  • Beware of individual pizzas, which are often enough for four people.
  • Order dressing on the side instead of asking them to dress the salad "lightly."
  • Consider whether you'll be satisfied with a low-cal version or if you're better off eating less of the "real" thing.

Eat this, not that

For on-the-go meals, watch portion sizes. A piece of meat or chicken should be the size of your palm, for example. In addition, swap out high fat options with the following healthier options.

Chinese food: avoid anything dipped in batter and fried, sweet and sour, or crispy and fried.

Eat this:

  • Steamed dumplings
  • Wonton soup
  • Tofu dishes
  • Bamboo steamed entrées
  • Stir fry meals (ask for less oil)

Not that:

  • Crispy noodles
  • Spare ribs
  • Fried dumplings or eggrolls
  • Fried rice
  • Egg foo yung
  • Italian food: cheese, sauces, and enormous portion sizes make Italian restaurants one of the hardest to navigate.

Up next: More simple swaps on the go >>

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