Dine out lighter

Dining out while you are dieting can be tough. There are so many hidden diet killers that are poised to wreck all your hard work. So what can you do? These tips and tricks will help you dine out lighter.

Woman eating salad at cafe

Heading out to eat? You’ve probably already heard all the basics when it comes to maintaining your diet at the restaurant — like ordering your dressing on the side and saying “No, thank you” to the bread basket. But there has to be more to the dine-out lighter dilemma, right?

We asked the experts what you should really know about eating out without busting your diet. Here’s what they had to say:

Be menu savvy

So, you get to the restaurant, you sit down and you gaze at the menu. It all looks so good …  and before you know it, you’ve forgotten your healthy rules and ordered a monstrous plate of Fettuccine Alfredo. Bad idea. Don’t let this happen to you.

Woman talking to waitress

Before you even leave home, prepare yourself for what’s to come. Google the restaurant and get a sneak peek at their menu so that you can calmly think about what the healthiest option is. “Most restaurants have websites available. Look at it ahead of time and try to get a game plan ready ahead of time,” says Ann Dunaway Teh, a registered dietitian.

Registered dietitian and nutrition consultant Rosanne Rust says that you should look for special menu items that are marked as “healthier,” which are being offered on more and more menus. These guidelines can make choosing a diet-friendly dish a little easier.

Also, choose the leaner items — without creamy sauces or lots of cheese. “Order broth-based soup and a side salad for lunch. Choose whatever vegetable is available. Choose grilled or baked items and limit deep-fried food,” says Rust.

If it says it’s smothered with something, that’s probably a no-go too, since it’s likely cheese or cream-based smothering.

And if you aren’t sure, just ask your server, says Dunaway Teh. “Don’t be afraid to ask the server how the dish is prepared …  Most people are afraid to ask questions, but if you are polite about it, there is no problem in asking,” says Dunaway Teh. “Don’t be afraid to ask for extra vegetables.”

Beware of portion sizes

Look, the same rules about portions apply at the restaurant as they do at home. That means when you are delivered a massive plate of food, you shouldn’t eat it all.

Be proactive when the plate arrives, and it will help. “If it’s a place that serves huge portions, don’t be afraid to ask for a take-out box right away,” says Dunaway Teh. Simply pack up half the food before you start eating, that way you won’t be tempted to overeat.

And if you do order an appetizer or dessert, says Rust, make sure to share with others.

Cheat sheet: What to skip

So now that you know what to look for in a healthy meal out, what should you look to avoid? Registered Dietitian Brian Zehetner of Anytime Fitness offered these tips:

  • Condiments: “Skimp on the condiments—very little bang for your buck nutritionally.” So, yes, ordering dressing on the side? Still a really good idea.
  • Appetizers and desserts: “The lunch or dinner will likely be high enough in calories without piling it on even more.” Of course, if you pack half the food away in the take-out container and also share either a dessert or an appetizer, you might be able to do it. Maybe.
  • Drinks (other than water): “Drink water only — save the calories for the actual food.” That lemonade (or mojito) really isn’t worth the calories when you are dieting. We swear.

More on portion control

Learn how to create meals with proper portions

More healthy diet tips

Secrets to healthy eating at work
Eat right when eating out: 5 Healthy girl tricks
5 Diet tips for dining out


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