Hacks to eat out without worrying about calories

Going out for dinner tonight? Most of us dine out at least once in a week. When you know you’re going to eat out, think about what foods you’ll choose over the whole day. For instance, plan for a light lunch, if you are going for a dinner. Try not to skip meals, which may make you over indulged later. Most importantly, don’t show up at the restaurant famished! If you’d like to splurge on a higher calorie entrée, plan to skip dessert, and commit to sticking to your plan once you’re in the restaurant.
Try to avoid all-you-can-eat buffets, which can really test your self-control. If you eat out a lot, go to restaurants that make it easier for you to follow your meal plan. Eating out doesn’t have to wreak havoc with a healthy diet. Try some of the following tactics to help make restaurant foods fit into your own eating plan.

If you have a choice in where to eat, ask yourself these questions to find the best place for you:
*    Does the restaurant have a variety of choices?
*    Does the restaurant allow substitutions without extra charges?
*    Can two people split an entrée without an extra charge?
*    Can I order dressing and sauces on the side?
*    Can the food be prepared without extra butter or salt?

Placing an order

Once you decide where you are going to eat, try some of these tips when ordering:
*    If you don’t know what’s in a dish or don’t know the serving size, ask.
*    Learn to spot which dishes are made with lower calorie cooking methods.
*    Ask your server what ingredients are used.
*    Eat three-quarters of what’s on your plate and then stop.
*    Try to eat the same portion as you would at home. Order regular portion sizes instead of the jumbo or super sizes that are so common.
*    If the serving size is larger, share some with your dining partner, or put the extra food in a container to go.
*    Try an appetizer, half an entrée, or share a meal with a friend and order an extra side salad.
*    Ask for half your entrée to be wrapped up to go before the food is brought to the table.
*    Ask for fish or meat broiled with no extra butter or oil.
*    If you are eating less salt, ask that no salt be added to your food during cooking.
*    Ask for sauces, gravy and salad dressings “on the side.” Try dipping your fork tines in the salad dressing, and then spear a piece of lettuce. Or add a teaspoon of dressing at a time to your salad. You’ll use less this way.
*    Order foods that are not breaded or fried. If the food comes breaded, peel off the outer coating.
*    Restaurants will honor all kinds of special requests – all you have to do is speak up. Order your food grilled, baked, broiled, poached, or steamed instead of fried. Ask for dishes to be cooked with a little olive oil instead of butter. Request extra veggies and less pasta.
*    Ask the waiter not to serve bread to the table if it doesn’t fit into your meal plan.
*    Ask for clear broth-based soups like Chinese wonton or hot and sour soup.
*    Read the menu creatively. Order a fruit cup for an appetizer or the breakfast melon for dessert. Instead of a dinner entree, combine a salad with a lower calorie appetizer.
*    Ask for substitutions. Instead of French fries, request a double order of a vegetable like salad, green beans or broccoli. If you can’t get a substitute, just ask that the high-fat food be left off your plate.
v    Ask for low-calorie items, such as salad dressings, even if they’re not on the menu. Vinegar and a dash of oil or a squeeze of lemon are a better choice than most full, fat high calorie salad dressings.
*    Some restaurants will better meet your special needs if you phone ahead. When you make the reservation, ask if your food can be prepared with vegetable oil, low-fat margarine, little salt, no extra sauce or butter, and broiled instead of fried. Or ask to see a copy of the menu in advance so that you know which items would work well with your meal plan.
*    Ask how dishes are prepared and can they can do it your way: grill the chicken, steam the vegetables, and bring sauces and salad dressings on the side.
*    Ask if you can make healthy substitutions, for instance, a baked potato instead of fries, or a salad or fresh fruit instead of coleslaw.
*    Don’t tempt yourself. Have the waiter remove the bowl of chips or peanuts, or the basket of bread, after you’ve had a small portion. Calories from mindless nibbling can add up before you know it.
*    Don’t sit near the dessert cart. Fresh fruit, sherbet, and angel food cake are good choices for dessert.
Have it your way. Restaurants are in the business of serving customers. Don’t be afraid to ask for items prepared the way you want them. No matter what type of restaurant you choose, choose wisely once inside. Consider your options carefully so you can make the best food choices possible.