10 healthy-eating tips for dining out

Dine out without straying from your healthy habits.

  • For some people, eating out is an occasional indulgence. For others, it's a way of life. Either way, moderate portions and careful choices can help make restaurant meals fit into an overall healthy-eating plan. Follow these tips to eat your best even when dining out.

  • Keep hunger under control — eat.

    • Don't skip a meal on the day you're going out to eat.
    • Have a light, nutritious snack — such as a piece of fruit or a glass of fat-free milk — an hour before your meal to avoid eating too much at the restaurant.

  • Choose restaurants that offer variety.

    • Choose a restaurant that offers a wide selection of foods and fresh, low-fat options.
    • Call the restaurant ahead of time to ask about healthy menu items. Or go online to check its website to see if nutrition information is posted.

  • Order more plant-based foods.

    • Try an exotic fruit — kiwi or papaya, for example — for variety.
    • Order your favorite vegetables, but don't smother them in rich, high-fat dressings or cream sauces.
    • Order items that include whole-grain foods to get your fiber.

  • Control portion size.

    • Leave food on your plate.
    • If you're tempted to clean your plate, ask your server to remove it.
    • Finish half your plate and ask for a carryout bag — you'll end up with two meals for the price of one.

  • Control fat.

    • Order baked or broiled. Avoid fried.
    • Ask for smaller portions of fatty foods — such as meats and fatty sauces — or ask for substitutions.

  • Cut out or cut back on the condiments.

    • Taste your food before adding salt, butter, sauces and dressings.
    • Order sauces and dressings on the side: Even small amounts add up.
    • Substitute healthier condiments: Use mustard instead of mayonnaise. Use pepper or lemon juice in place of salt.

  • Approach buffets with a plan.

    • Don't be tempted to overfill your plate just to get your money's worth. Instead, survey the entire buffet line and choose the healthiest options.
    • Make salad your first course, with plenty of veggies, fruit, and no-fat or low-fat dressing. Then go back for the entree or just eat more salad.

  • Mind your manners — it'll help you cut calories.

    • Eat slowly for better digestion. You'll feel full before overeating.
    • Don't gulp your food; chew thoroughly.
    • Order food that requires work and slows down your eating, such as crab legs.
    • Share your meal with a companion.

  • Order beverages with few or no calories.

    • Order water or sparkling water with a twist of lemon — it's healthy, filling and has no calories.
    • For a hot drink, try black decaf coffee or hot tea, minus sugar and other extras.
    • Be aware that alcoholic beverages may have more calories than you'd expect, and alcohol may stimulate your appetite and weaken your willpower.

  • Think before ordering dessert.

    • Finish the main dish. By the time you're done, you may not want dessert.
    • If you do order dessert, split it with a friend or take half of it home.

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